New Orleans Saints supporters insisted the bounty scandal wouldn't affect their team, and the reasons they gave were usually the same.
The core of the team was still there, quarterback Drew Brees was like a coach on the field anyway, the team did a reasonable job filling the personnel holes from the since-overturned suspensions, and the team would rally together to stick it to the NFL.
That sounded great until the Saints were destroyed 40-32 by a Redskins team that was coming off a 6-10 season and starting a rookie quarterback, probably ruining more than a few survivor pool entries in the process.
Yes, Robert Griffin III doesn't look like an ordinary rookie, but the Saints absolutely looked ordinary. Last year, when Sean Payton was still allowed to coach, New Orleans not only won all nine games at home, but was never really tested at the Superdome. The Saints were 9-0 against the spread at home in 2011. Being manhandled by the Redskins from the first quarter on should be a cause for concern. Not panic yet, but definite concern.
The defense was torched by Griffin, who completed the first eight passes of his career and threw for the second-most yards by a rookie making his debut in NFL history, with 320. New Orleans allowed 464 yards. The offense put up some points but this wasn't the dominant Saints attack everyone is used to.
Brees is usually automatic, but he wasn't efficient against Washington. The man who set a NFL single-season record by completing 71.2 percent of his passes last year didn't even reach 50 percent on Sunday. He completed just 24-of-52 passes. He had 339 yards and three touchdowns, but also two fourth-quarter interceptions.
Down 33-25 with 3:39 left in the fourth quarter, Brees and the Saints had a chance. But Brees overthrew a pass over the middle that was picked off by safety DeJon Gomes and set up a Redskins touchdown. The Saints could have tied the game with a touchdown and 2-point conversion at the end, but a Hail Mary on the last play was picked off at the goal line.
None of the Saints' issues on Sunday can be directly tied to the bounty scandal or the distraction it caused the Saints, but the team's personnel wasn't that much different than last year — especially with the player suspensions overturned — and yet something was definitely amiss with New Orleans to start the season.
Although Brees wasn't at his best on Sunday, he did creep closer to Johnny Unitas' record of 47 straight games with a touchdown pass. Brees' first touchdown, to Jimmy Graham, gave him 44 games in a row with a touchdown throw:
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