Facing off against the NFL's top-ranked offense, the Redskins' defense turned in one of its best performances of the season in Sunday's 16-10 win over the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints entered the game averaged 27 points per game. Drew Brees was touted as an MVP candidate in the days leading up to the game and much of the focus was on rookie sensation Reggie Bush.
In a defensive showing reminiscent of seasons past, Washington limited New Orleans to just 270 yards of total offense and 71 rushing yards in the win.
Andre Carter, emerging in recent weeks, had a standout performance, leading the defense with eight tackles and a sack. Sean Taylor also had eight tackles and Marcus Washington recorded a sack.
The Redskins' secondary had a solid game, led by Carlos Rogers, who logged his first interception of the season and knocked away a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds.
Saints' quarterback Drew Brees, touted as an MVP candidate last week, was 21-of-38 for 207 yards and a QB rating of 59.9.
The Redskins' defense set the tone early. On the Saints' first drive, Washington batted away a screen pass from Brees, almost holding on to the ball for a near-interception. Then, on a 3rd-and-4 play, Taylor broke up a deep pass from Brees to wide receiver Marques Colston.
On the Saints' second drive, on a 3rd-and-8 play, Carter burst through the line of scrimmage to stuff running back Reggie Bush for a 2-yard loss.
The defense continued to stymie the Saints in the second quarter, as Shawn Springs batted away a third-down pass to wide receiver Terrance Copper. Then, in the final minutes of the first half, Springs stuffed running back Reggie Bush for a 2-yard loss on a screen pass.
In the second half, with the Redskins holding on to a slim 13-10 lead, the Redskins' defense continued to amp up the pressure on Brees. Carter sacked him for a seven-yard loss back to the Saints' 8-yard line, but Brees was able to overcome it with a 24-yard completion to Colston for a first down.
On the next play, Brees threw an ill-advised deep pass down the left sideline to wide receiver Devery Henderson, but the pass was short. The ball landed into Rogers' arms, and the second-year cornerback bobbled it but held on for the interception.
"I think it came at a good time," Rogers said. "It definitely stopped their offensive momentum. [The stadium] was so loud, I just made sure I covered my guy."
After weeks of dropped interceptions, Rogers finally nabbed his first interception of the season and he was mobbed by teammates on the sidelines.
The Redskins' defense had more work to do, as the Saints took over at their 38-yard line with just under five minutes to play. Brees was sacked by Washington, putting the Saints on their heels, but he came back by completing a seven-yard pass to Colston on a 4th-and-5.
Back in a rhythm, Brees connected with Henderson for a 16-yard pickup, then threw a screen pass to Bush who weaved his way downfield for another 15 yards. The Saints had moved the ball to the Redskins' 19-yard line.
The Redskins' defense had one last stand in them.
First Springs knocked away a potential touchdown pass to Colston. Then Carter stuffed Bush for a 1-yard loss on a screen pass, setting up a 4th-and-7 at the 16-yard line.
The game on the line, Brees dropped back, stepped up in the pocket and fired a pass to Copper in the end zone. Rogers had coverage all the way, and knocked down the pass to seal the upset win for the Redskins.
"We need him to play like that," head coach Joe Gibbs said of Rogers. "I think now he's starting to get into a groove and be one of the corners that you put out there and leave out there. Hopefully, it's a confidence thing for him. It should be."
Added assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: "The last five weeks he has really taken a step up. His confidence has improved and his techniques have improved. I have been real pleased with what I have seen come out of him in the last five or six weeks. His challenge and understanding of leverages and techniques in the pass game has improved. His preparation and study has been very good on understanding the opposition."
-- WADE STARTS FOR JANSEN
#### -- RABACH MAKES IT THROUGH
Casey Rabach started at center against the Saints despite a fractured left hand that was wrapped with a protective cast. He did not re-aggravate the injury, team officials said after the game.
Rabach snaps with his right hand, and although he and Jason Campbell had two fumbled exchanges in the Saints game, the injury to his left hand did not impact his play.
Head coach Joe Gibbs praised Rabach's toughness.
"He has had a huge year," Gibbs said. "He is a tough guy and he has proven it all year. Basically, you have to protect [the injured hand] where it won't get hit."
-- PARITY PARTY
With the Redskins upsetting the New Orleans Saints, it was another example of league-wide parity. On any given Sunday...
The Saints, of course, were 3-13 a year ago. They have turned around the franchise in one year. At 9-5, they have won the NFC South and are still in the hunt for a first-round playoff bye.
For the Redskins, parity offers a chance to turn the team's fortunes around next season.
Said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: "The games are so close each and every week. We lost our close games this year that we won last year. We are a play or two away from a different record.
"That is the National Football League. Every single week, year and game, you have to be prepared. Those are the things that we have to continue to strive for and get better at."