A 15-point lead with three minutes remaining in a game should be enough for a victory, right? Even if you’re playing the hottest team in the sport in the New Orleans Saints? You would think so.

But if you’ve been a Washington fan for the last 20 or so seasons, you know that somehow, someway this team would find a way to lose, which they did as this season is, for all intents and purposes, over, with a 34-31 overtime stunning loss on Nov. 19 in the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.

Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson (25) carries in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)

The Washington NFL team –surprisingly—played well for 58 minutes of the game. They ran the ball extremely well as Samaje Perine had his first 100-yard game of his career to reinvigorate a morbid run game with 117 yards on 23 carries with a touchdown.  Kirk Cousins played a great game but, as it always is with this team or this quarterback, mental errors cost them and it cost them big time today. After the defense relinquished a 31-16 lead, Washington had the ball at the Saints’ 34-yard line and was driving to possibly have an easy attempt for a game-winning field goal. But Cousins inexplicably threw the ball out of bounds, which directly resulted in a 10-yard intentional grounding penalty and a 10-second runoff of time, pushing Washington out of field goal range with only 18 seconds to possibly get back closer for the kick. And, of course, they didn’t get any closer and instead punted to force overtime.

In overtime, Washington received the ball first but all the momentum was on the side of the Saints.  If Washington couldn’t do anything on this drive, this game was basically over. 

Of course, Washington went 3-and-out and punted.

The Saints, who extended their winning streak to eight games with the victory, marched at will against a Washington defense that had given up 484 yards in regulation. Running back Mark Ingram ran behind his left tackle for 20 and 31 yards on consecutive plays, setting up kicker Will Lutz for the 28-yard field goal that clinched the victory for the home team.

This team, for the last two decades-plus, has found ways to blow win after win. For all of the great things done today (Cousins’ overall play, the running game, early defense) there are always small things that make it so difficult for Washington fans to cheer about. Whether it’s the inability to stop anybody in the last two minutes of either half (worst in the league), or the moments where someone makes a mental error, leaving you just scratching your head. I had a moment like that today when head coach Jay Gruden inexplicably challenged a catch by Saints tight end Coby Fleener, which after further review was ultimately proven as the correct call on the field. I wonder if this team is mentally capable of being anything more than average.

Yes, the team is injured (losing explosive running back Chris Thompson for possibly the season with a leg injury is a death blow). And, yes, the team has showed flashes of brilliance at times. But when will they ever consistently make the winning plays when it really matters?

It begs the question, at this point, if Washington is prepared during the week for situational football.  That’s all on the coaching staff.  Either the players signed to the roster just aren’t smart enough or the coaching staff isn’t doing enough to have them prepared when the situation sees fit.

A friend of mine texted me as soon as the game ended: “Horrible organizations do horrible things.”  Its a sad reality because this team is so close to being much more than the 4-6 laughingstock they are currently.

Dion Johnson

Special to the AFRO