Charles, Chiefs erase New Orleans’ three-touchdown lead
NEW ORLEANS — Veteran New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith sat at his cubicle Sunday fielding questions from inquisitive reporters who were searching to find a plausible explanation for the inexplicable.
He offered none of any substance, more playerspeak than anything else.
Perhaps there is not just one reason but too many to mention, at least for public consumption.
Fact is, the numbers speak for themselves, beginning with the final score: The Kansas City Chiefs staged a comeback for the ages, rallying from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter for an improbable 27-24 victory in overtime before a stunned sellout crowd of 72,226 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop delivered the winning points with a 31-yard field goal — his sixth of the game — with 6:27 remaining in overtime.
It dropped the Saints to 0-3, putting them three full games behind the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.
Know this: Only three of 113 teams that started a season 0-3 have reached the postseason since 1990, when the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format, and none since 1998.
That suggests the winless Saints will have to defy history to play into January.
“History is made to be broken,’’ Smith said with a smile.
In order for the Saints to buck the odds, they first will have to play better defense under first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
On Sunday, they were gashed for 510 yards, including 273 rushing yards, with 233 coming from running back Jamaal Charles on 33 carries for a robust 7.1-yard average.
He initiated the Chiefs’ comeback with a momentum-changing 91-yard touchdown run with 5:18 remaining in the third quarter to trim New Orleans’ lead from 24-6 to 24-13.
“Our offensive line told me to keep trying and wait for the big runs, and the next thing you know, that’s what happened,’’ Charles said. “It was a big play for us.’’
The Saints defense never seemed to recover from Charles’ back-breaking jaunt, yielding crucial yards and failing to get off the field twice on fourth down on drives that led to the game-tying and game-winning field goals.
The first came on fourth-and-5 at the Saints’ 46 late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Matt Cassel connected with former LSU standout wide receiver Dwayne Bowe on a 7-yard pass.
Five plays later, Succop sent the game to OT on a 43-yard field goal with three seconds remaining.
The second came on fourth-and-1 at the Saints’ 44 in OT when Charles ran over right tackle for 3 yards.
Seven plays later, Succop kicked the Saints where it hurt the most, splitting the uprights on a 31-yard field goal for the win.
“Never did I think that this team would start off the season 0-3,’’ Saints veteran linebacker Scott Shanle said. “We have to find a way this week to get a win, whether it’s finding a way to get more energy, doing the little things better this week, whatever.
“Nobody cares that we’re 0-3. Nobody cares if we’re going to go into Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers (next Sunday). Jon Vilma says it best: ‘It’s a bottom-line business; it’s about winning. There are no excuses.’”
Until Sunday, only once before had the Saints squandered a bigger lead at home. The Oakland Raiders rallied from a 35-14 deficit on Dec. 3, 1979, to win 38-35.
Now the Saints face the prospect of going 0-4 for the second time during the Sean Payton regime, the first occurring in 2007. Asked if Payton’s absence because of his season-long suspension for his role in the bounty scandal is wearing on the team, Shanle replied:
“When you’re 0-3, anybody can find one of the many excuses you can make,’’ Shanle said. “But this is a bottom-line business, regardless of who is standing where, who is coaching you and who is telling you what, especially today with that type of lead.
“For us to lose a lead like that, at home, with our crowd, there are no excuses.’’