Saints' miracle win over Redskins spoils return of ex-Tulane star Ryan Grant
It was setting up to be the perfect homecoming for Ryan Grant.
The fourth-year Washington Redskins receiver and Tulane alum had just scored on a 40-yard reception in the very same building he starred in back in his college days for the Green Wave.
This touchdown, much like most of the game for the Redskins, looked easy.
Grant, as wide open as he has probably ever been on a touchdown, skipped into the end zone. He could have crawled in. It put the Redskins up 24-13 late in the third quarter.
At the time, it looked like Washington's trip to New Orleans was going to end just like they usually do: with the Redskins taking a "W" back to the nation's capital.
The Redskins had won seven of the eight times they had visited the Dome, including four in a row. In fact, the last time Washington lost in the Big Easy was 1992 when Grant was just 2.
But as Grant — and the rest of the NFL found out Sunday — these aren't the same Saints.
The 2017 version of the Saints, who trailed 31-16 with 5:58 left, stormed back for a 34-31 overtime victory that the Who Dat Nation will be talking about for years to come.
It's a game Grant and his teammates will quickly want to forget.
"It's a heartbreaker," Grant said. "It is what it is. It's football. You win some, you lose some. Unfortunately we lost this one. It's a tough loss. The Saints are a good team. They have the momentum now and they are playing well."
Grant, a fifth-round draft pick in 2014, finished with three catches for 59 yards in his return to New Orleans.
"It's always fun to go back where you played college ball at, so it was a fun and a great experience," Grant said.
Just not as fun as it could've been.
Grant played his final college game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, catching seven passes for 113 yards in Tulane's loss to Louisiana-Lafayette 24-21 in the 2013 New Orleans Bowl.
That one wasn't decided until Tulane missed a potential game-tying field goal as time expired.
This one was decided when Saints kicker Will Lutz nailed a 28-yard field goal to cap an improbable comeback.
Saints fans left the Dome wondering what they had just witnessed.
Grant and his teammates were wondering the same thing.
This was one they felt they let slip away.
Washington linebacker Junior Galette, the former Saint who like Grant, was also returning to his former home, was still stunned afterward.
"I honestly feel like we beat ourselves," said Galette, who finished with one quarterback hurry. "They are one of the better teams we played all year, but if you watch that game, you know we beat ourselves."
But Galette, who spent five seasons with the Saints before being released after an injury and off-the-field concerns, has seen Drew Brees do what Drew Brees did on Sunday.
Brees completed 11 of 11 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns on the Saints' last two drives in regulation.
"In two minutes, he's one of the best I've seen," Galette said. "But we still have to bow (up) and tighten our defense up and be disciplined."
And even that may not have been enough to beat the Saints, who refused to lose and found a way to win a close game after winning the previous seven games in the winning streak by eight points or more (five of the eight games in the streak have been won by double digits).
The Saints will try to make it nine in a row next week in Los Angeles, while the Redskins have a quick turnaround and play the Giants on Thanksgiving.
The Redskins might still be feeling the sting from this one Thursday.
"It's terrible," coach Jay Gruden said. "I feel bad for the players. We laid it all on the line. We came out to a hostile environment against a team that has won seven in a row. You don't get anything for (playing) close."
Grant got some encouragement from his former college coach after the game. Former Tulane coach Curtis Johnson is now in his second stint as Saints receivers coach.
"He just told me to keep doing what I'm doing," Grant said, "and not to get discouraged."
But after the Saints' miracle comeback, who could blame Grant or any of the Redskins if they did.