In a game that featured a Hail Mary touchdown pass, a 72-yard bomb for a score and the continued brilliance of running back Alvin Kamara, the player who may have had the biggest impact for the New Orleans Saints in their 33-22 win over Washington Football team was punter Blake Gillikin.
Gillikin, a 6-foot-2, 196-pounder out of Penn State who unseated longtime Saints punter Thomas Morstead, was brilliant Sunday, Oct. 10 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., placing three punts inside the 3-yard line, flipping the field and putting the Washington Football Team in tough spot after tough spot. His best punt, a 60-yarder that went out at the 1-yard line at the 2-minute warning of the first half, set the stage for Jameis Winston's 49-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Marquez Callaway as the half ended, giving the Saints a 20-13 lead.
Gillikin pinned the Washington Football team at the 2-yard line with a 53-yarder at the start of the fourth quarter, leading to Taylor Heinicke's second interception, this one by defensive back. P.J. Williams. New Orleans quickly cashed in again, as Winston hit Callaway on another scoring pass, this one from 12 yards. Gillikin had five punts and averaged 53.6 yards a kick.
"He was outstanding, Outstanding. Outstanding," Coach Sean Payton said. "He just got a game ball."
Gillikin said getting the ball meant a lot to him. "I try to show every week and do my job for the team," he said.
The win improved the Saints to 3-2 as they head into their bye weekend. Their next game is Monday, Oct. 25 at Seattle. Washington dropped to 2-3.
Winston had an up-and-down game in his fifth start as Drew Brees' replacement, throwing four touchdown passes but also committing two turnovers and missing on a few throws. Kamara, who was held without a catch for the first time in his career in last week's loss to the New York Giants, had five catches for 51 yards, and carried the ball 16 times for 71 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown run in the first half. Kamara also delivered the knockout blow, a 19-yard touchdown reception with 3:15 to play
New Orleans had to play most of the game without two of its top offensive players as Deonte Harty, who caught that 72-yard bomb from Winston, left with a hamstring injury and Taysom Hill was knocked out of the game with a concussion after taking a nasty hit to his helmet from Washington defensive back William Jackson III.
Heinicke caused the Saints some problems (20 of 41 for 248 yards) but Williams and rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo made key interceptions and star cornerback Marshon Lattimore had numerous pass breakups while shadowing Washington's best receiver, Terry McLaurin. The Washington Football Team dominated plays run (76-55) and time of possession (36:26-23:34) but the Saints' big plays - and the big right leg of Gillikin - proved to be the difference.
The win was the 400th in the history of the Saints.