In the Browns’ 30-17 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the team took most of those “never thought I’d see that” moments and rolled them all up into one afternoon. A throwback on a punt return, a punter running 68 yards on a fake punt, a running back completing a pass to a rookie quarterback in the fourth quarter, and a linebacker returning two interceptions for touchdowns – oh, and this is all without mentioning the additional interceptions by the defense for a total of four on the day.
Drew Brees and the Saints were perplexed by the Browns’ defense all day, as defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was able to keep the Saints guessing with a number of different looks. As a fan watching the game, you were always expecting that moment when Brees & Co. would eventually figure it all out and put a few touchdown-scoring drives together, but it just never materialized.
With that in mind, here are five reasons why the Browns beat the New Orleans Saints:
1) The unpredictability highlighted above. Nothing against the Browns, but they simply do not have the talent or depth to hang with teams like the Saints without introducing a little trickery. Each time Cleveland utilized a trick play, it caught New Orleans completely off-guard, and the Browns were able to capitalize.
2) I know that Colt McCoy was only 9-16 for 74 yards and no touchdowns, but how can you be upset with a guy who didn’t throw an interception or make too many poor decisions? Obviously, McCoy wasn’t given a ton of responsibility, but the offense never looked confused or necessarily out of place, and they got it done when it counted in the fourth quarter. I’m not saying McCoy should start the rest of the year, but there’s a lot to build on. Also, you have to love how accurate this guy is.
3) David Bowens‘ two – count ‘em, two – interception returns for touchdowns. The offense couldn’t get much done for most of the game, so the onus fell on the defense to keep it close. I’m not sure they expected to get two interceptions returned for touchdowns, but the Browns were able to ride them – and those key special teams plays – out for a victory.
4) The fourth quarter. Believe it or not, the Browns have held the lead in a lot of games this season, only to fall apart in the fourth quarter. However, on this day the Browns put together a seven-minute drive in the fourth quarter that sealed the game. Peyton Hillis broke out and gained many of his yards at this time and the Browns were able to pound the ball against a desperate defense.
5) Now here is a rare opportunity: we actually get to praise the coaching staff. Eric Mangini and his staff called their best game in two seasons, as the Browns looked prepared, poised, and confident in what they were doing. The Browns always play hard under Mangini, but it’s been rare that the game plan has matched up with that tenacity on the field. This game showed what the Browns can do when it all comes together.
The Browns now get to go into the bye week riding high on a victory, but there are still a number of questions that surround the team, most notably what Mangini will do once Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme is healthy. Either way, this is a win that both the Browns and their fans can sit back an enjoy. Despite its depth and supposed talent issues, maybe this team is on the right track after all.