METAIRIE, La. – Robert Meachem crossed from the left to the right, trekking across the entire width of the field, watching as Washington’s Kareem Moore made a diving interception of New Orleans’ Drew Brees.
There was only one thing for him to do with time winding down in the first half and the Saints trailing 17-10 – “I wasn't expecting him to fumble,” Meachem said. “Once I saw how he was carrying the ball, I knew I had chance. I told myself if I can knife between the two blockers, I knew I had a chance.”
Forty-four yards later, Meachem was in the end zone with the ball, scoring a game-tying touchdown on a play several called one of the most important in New Orleans’ 33-30 overtime win over Washington.
“What a heady play,” Brees said. “We're in a situation where we're just trying to get the guy down and Meachem has the wherewithal of stripping and getting the ball and taking it to the house. It was unbelievable.
“And the big play to tie the game. He just continues to come through with big plays in big moments. I've got to hand it to him. He's coming along.”
Heading into the Saints (12-0) Sunday noon game at Atlanta (6-6) Meachem has become the team’s leading scorer – nine touchdowns, including seven in the past five games – and one of Brees’ go-to guys in tough situation – his 53-yard touchdown with 1:19 to play in regulation sent the game to Redskins game to overtime.
It has been a long road traveled for the third-year receiver out of Tennessee. He was inactive for all 16 games his rookie season after offseason surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
All during that first season, he heard the public criticism of his lack of production. But to those who mattered most, there was support.
“Coach (Sean) Payton used to always say, ‘Be ready,’ ” Meachem said. “Just for him to say that, he didn’t have to say nothing. He could have kept walking every day. But he’s like, ‘Be ready and keep going.’ ”
More importantly, he had the support of his mother and father as well as his daughter Adrianna and his girlfriend Andrea.
When Meachem would return home from practice that first year, Andrea always was there to take his mind off of football.
“I was just trying to listen to her advice,” Meachem said. “She wouldn’t talk about football. She would talk about other stuff so I didn’t have to talk about football.”
He didn’t play in a regular season NFL game until the second week of his second season, where his first professional catch was a 19-yard touchdown.
But now? Now he has turned into one of the Saints’ breakout stars of a breakout season.
Meachem has 29 catches for 544 yards and eight touchdowns, four carries for 71 yards and a big-time strip-fumble recovery that he took back for a touchdown.
Now he’s hearing positives from the fans, not criticisms.
In typical Meachem fashion, however, he’s taking it all in stride. He’s a quiet man who doesn’t covet all the attention that can come from a spotlight NFL career.
“You hear all kinds of positive things,” Meachem said. “But it’s life. Everybody is human and everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has their own opinion. When they say good things, I’m happy.
“When they say bad things, I’m still happy because I try to make that bad thing into a positive.”