by Christopher Taylor, mentored by Sam Joffray and Ro Brown.
Photos by Wyatt Vaughn, mentored by Nick Boulet
The 3-1 New Orleans Saints returned to the Superdome in a Monday Night Football showdown to take on the 2-1 Washington Redskins following road trips where the Saints stole wins from the rival Atlanta Falcons and the struggling New York Giants and extended their winning streak to three. Looking to make it four, there were high expectations for Drew Brees, including becoming the all-time leader in passing yards, needing only 210 yards to pass Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. Also, it was the return of veteran running back Mark Ingram. Coming off a four game suspension, Ingram was obviously hyped as he ran out of the tunnel flexing his muscles and pumping up the Saints’ fans. Sean Payton’s squad came into the game looking to maintain their first place position in the NFC South division. With Carolina winning in a last minute thriller off a 63 yard field goal, a way to win that even Saints fans could appreciate, tonight was a key game for the black and gold to maintain the valuable lead in their division.
The expectations could be felt outside and inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome pregame, as hundreds of trucks and burning grills were lined up outside hours before the Monday Night Football kickoff complete with the customary soundtrack of non-stop Who Dat chants. Saints fans piled into the Superdome early to beat the looming monsoon that drenched latecomers, all anxious to see if Brees, Ingram and the winning streak would all rise to the occasion.
Drew Brees opened up the first two drives with a perfect completion rate going 6/6, but he was only getting started. With 2:46 left in the first half, Drew Brees aired out a historic 64 yard pass to Tre’Quan Smith that would not only result in a touchdown, but would also make Brees the NFL all-time passing leader, surpassing Peyton Manning. “With us being able to win with a significant record being broken, that makes it that much more special,” said head coach Sean Payton. The football thrown earned a trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. The ball and jersey were received on the sideline by a white gloved Hall Of Fame executive director, David Baker. The hometown fans got on their feet and screamed the loudest that they could. Every fan, including the visiting Washington fans, stood on their feet to acknowledge the greatest that was in front of them, even sending some fans into tears. Media members in the press box were cheering and shouting for Brees, even though they’re forbidden to do so. Rules were overlooked as everyone stood for a round of applause for the newly crowned passing king. Not content to let the Redskins change the momentum, Brees continued his offensive tear with a 35 yard touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith to open up the second half. Brees’ overall performance was outstanding, he led his to team to a dominant win giving the Saints a one game edge over the Panthers for the #1 spot in the NFC South division.
On Mark Ingram’s opening drive of his 8th season with the Saints, he was able to set himself up for a 2 yard touchdown run, after Brees dipped a 28-yard pass to him. This sent the New Orleans fans into a uproar, as it seemed as if every black and gold fan was in the endzone celebrating with Ingram, alongside his teammates. Ingram ended his first quarter of the season with five carries on 18-yards, a 28-yard reception and a touchdown. Ingram continued to show up with a mixture of short runs on his second and third drives, and a key short touchdown run to put the Saints up 20-6 late in the second quarter. Every time Ingram broke off for even a five yard run everyone in the crowd would roar to the top of their lungs. “It’s a good run front…It was great to have him (Mark Ingram) back…those are two really good running backs, it’s a lot easier to call in the game,” said head coach Sean Payton.
Coming into this Week 5 matchup, there was lots of hype surrounding Drew Brees and whether he would break the all-time passing record and how Mark Ingram would perform coming off his four game suspension. There was also the first place spot in the NFC south division at stake. With the exception of a Saints’ turnover to end the half, the entire first 30 minutes belonged to the Saints. Brees was hitting on almost every target, finishing the half with a 17/20 completion rate. Mark Ingram also was very productive in his opening game leading his team with 23 rushing yards on 8 attempts and more importantly, two rushing touchdowns. The Saints finished the first the first half with a 26-13 lead. In the second half they didn’t let up. Brees continued to demolish the Redskin defense throughout the second half extending the Saints lead to 30 points at one point. Ingram continued to push through the defense as well and finished with 53 rushing yards on 16 attempts and two rushing touchdowns. Brees would be substituted out at the two-minute warning, giving one more pump and roar to the crowd as he left the field and the fans respond with the famous “DREW” chant. Brees would finish the night with 363 yards passing completing 26/29 attempts and three touchdowns. To save some suspense for the rest of the season, he left the field one touchdown shy of 500 career touchdown passes, setting up an interesting season of Brady and Brees jockeying for the title of all time leader in touchdown passes.
Not only did the spotlight players produce, but so did defensive coordinator Dennis Allen’s squad. They dominated the Redskins offense the entire night, finishing with a interception, a forced fumble and recovery and three sacks for a combined 31 negative yards. The Saints’ defense held the Skins’ offense to 20 points, which included a fourth quarter gimme. Cameron Jordan led the defense by keeping pressure on Alex Smith the entire night, forcing sacks or bad passes on multiple 4th downs. “Defensively we did a great job, I thought there was a great effort being made….they played fantastic, we got turnovers when we needed them,” said head coach Sean Payton.
The Saints would officially close the night with an impressive 43-19 win. The Saints will have a bye next week, giving Brees some time to reminisce on his historic night and giving the entire team a week to rest before they take on the Ravens. A five game winning streak after a bye could not only put the Saints in a great position to win the NFC South division, but a position for them to take the coveted first place standing in the NFC conference.