NEW ORLEANS Even the most ardent doubting Thomas has to believe now.
The New Orleans Saints continued their serendipitous season in stunning fashion Sunday, overcoming a 15-point deficit late in regulation to beat the Washington Redskins 34-31 in overtime at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Kicker Wil Lutz capped the improbable comeback with a 28-yard field goal with 7:25 remaining in OT, extending the Saints winning streak to eight games and keeping them in sole possession of first place in the NFC South.
What seemed like a lost cause for the Saints who trailed 31-15 with less than three minutes remaining turned into a victory for the ages thanks to quarterback Drew Brees and a quick-strike offense and a defense that got its act together at crunch time with three key stops.
With about six minutes remaining, the Redskins had a 99.7 percent chance of winning, according to ESPN analytics.
In other words, the Saints still had a chance.
In a span of 108 seconds, Brees threw scoring tosses of 3 yards to tight end Josh Hill and 18-yards to rookie running back Alvin Kamara, setting the stage for Kamara’s tying 2-point conversion run with1:05 remaining.
Yet things still looked dire for New Orleans as quarterback Kirk Cousins quickly moved the Redskins into field-goal range with consecutive completions of 12, 10 and 19 yards.
But facing a first down at the Saints 34 and time running out, Cousins apparently got crossed up by his receivers and his errant pass in front of the Redskins’ bench drew a flag for intentional grounding. The 10-yard penalty pushed the Redskins out of field goal range and also cost them 10 seconds on the clock as well.
Now with 9 seconds remaining in regulation, the Saints brought extra pressure and forced Cousins to fumble away a final, desperate opportunity, bringing on a 10-minute extra period.
After winning the coin toss and taking possession, the Redskins went three-and-out from their 25 and were forced to punt.
Tommylee Lewis gave the Saints excellent field position with a 14-yard return to their 39. From there, Saints running back Mark Ingram rattled off consecutive runs of 20 and 31 yards, putting the ball in chipshot range at the Redskins’ 10-yard line. Saints coach Sean Payton wasted no time and sent in Lutz to kick the Redskins where it hurt the most -- right between the Girod Street uprights for a 34-31 victory.
“Nobody panicked,’’ said Ingram, who accounted for 155 yards from scrimmage, including 134 on the ground and one touchdown. “Nobody thought it was over. We all believed -- offense, defense and special teams.’’
Sunday’s game represents the first time the Saints have overcome a deficit as large as 16 points in the fourth quarter for victory. It also marks the latest achievement in a season that seems to be mirroring the franchise’s magical run to Super Bowl XLIV glory in 2009.
How else would one explain a bank of lights suddenly going dark inside the Superdome with 2:53 remaining in regulation after Hill’s 3-yard TD catch pulled the Saints within 31-23.
It’s kismet I tell you, kismet!
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at email@example.com.