The Saints found a way to lose a game they absolutely, positively had to win, blowing a 24-6 second-half lead to the Chiefs and falling into the bottomless pit that swallows almost all 0-3 teams. They could not stop RB Jamaal Charles for one pivotal stretch, allowing a franchise record (for both teams) 91-yard TD run and another 40-yard gain as he finished with 233 yards. They could not even make a first down in the fourth quarter or overtime, falling 27-24 at the Superdome while matching their loss total for all of 2011 and putting themselves in a shocking spot.
When Ryan Succop kicked his sixth field goal with 6:27 left in OT, the Chiefs (1-2) avoided a customary position. They had started 0-3 in three of the last four years, but thanks to Succop, Charles and a defense that took over in the second half, they still have a chance to make something of their season.
When the game turned: Right after the Chiefs fell behind 24-6 in the third quarter, Charles took a pitch and swept around the left corner for his 91-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 24-13. Bang. The Saints tried to answer on their next series when Drew Brees completed a 34-yard pass to Lance Moore, but Brees then underthrew Devery Henderson on a go route and CB Stanford Routt intercepted it near the goal line. Double bang.
From there, the Chiefs dominated.
Highlight moments: Charles' run. The left side of the Chiefs' line blew the Saints off the ball, allowing Charles to turn the corner with ease, and no one was going to catch him as he raced into the Kansas City record books. … With Kansas City trailing 24-21 late in regulation, QB Matt Cassell was flushed out of the pocket on third-and-10, ran to his right, circled around to his left and threw a strike to Jon Baldwin for a first down just before he was hit. The Chiefs wound up kicking a tying field goal with 3 seconds left.
Top-shelf performance: Charles -- 33 carries,199 yards and the Chiefs only TD. LB Justin Houston-- three sacks, including one for a safety, four hurries and two deflections. Succop -- 6 for 6 on FGs, including the game-winner.
What they said about the Saints being 0-3:
Interim coach Aaron Kromer: “We don't know how this feels. We don't know how we're supposed to act right now.
- Brees: “We need to focus on just getting one win. Once we get one, we can turn that into two and three and get rolling. But we have to find a way to get that one.”
On Justin Houston's three sacks:
- Saints OT Zach Strief: “I was physically and mentally beat, and that's disappointing. You can't be in that situation. You just can't.”
On Charles' huge day:
- Charles: “I feel like it was my best game catching the ball and running screens and getting big games. It motivates me even more than I've still got it. I didn't trust myself, but I'm back to trusting myself.”
On Succop's big day:
- Succop: “The best part is our guys never gave up. We kept fighting, it was a huge team win and I'm just really excited to have had a part in it."
Numbers you should know: From the end of the fourth quarter until the end of the game, the Saints had minus-16 yards of offense. … No team has made the playoffs since 1998 after starting 0-3. … Brees has a TD pass in 46 straight regular season games, one behind Johnny Unitas' NFL record of 47. ... The Saints blew their biggest lead at home since losing a 21-point advantage in December of 1979 to the Oakland Raiders. ... Charles came up 26 yards short of his career high of 259 rushing yards set against Denver in 2009.
Injury updates: Saints LB David Hawthorne left with a hamstring problem in the second quarter and did not return, getting replaced by Casillas. For the Chiefs, RB Peyton Hillis left with a ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return. C Rodney Hudson exited with a knee injury in the third quarter, forcing LG Ryan Lijja to move to center and Jeff Allen to come in for Lilja. McCluster did not come back after his shoulder injury. DT Anthony Toribio (ankle) and S Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) missed their third consecutive games after preseason injuries.
Going forward: The Saints have to figure out a way to rebound with a trip to Green Bay on the docket. If the season isn't over after three games, it sure feels like it. They have major problems to fix on both sides of the ball. … The Chiefs can build on Charles' gargantuan performance if Cassel becomes more consistent. He was spotty for most of the day. They play host to San Diego next week in a crucial (for them) division game.
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on Twitter @CBSSaints.