There were lots of things to like about Sunday’s 30-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints: the coaching was excellent, the trickeration was effective , and the four interceptions of Drew Brees were completely unexpected, but greatly appreciated. Fluky? Of course, but I bet those three things were at the top of everybody’s list.
Mine as well, only the coaching, tricks, and picks ranked 2-4 on my personal list – in no particular order. My favorite part about the game, however, was the Browns’ lone fourth quarter drive, or what I’d like to call the drive that kept Eric Mangini alive.
As we all know, more often than not the Browns manage to lose when they have a lead late in a football game. We saw it happen three times to start this season and it’s happened a helluva lot in the past. That’s just the way things seem to go in Cleveland, which is I why I began preparing myself for the inevitable letdown once Brees hooked up with tight end David Thomas for an 11-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 20-10.
A three and out or a turnover following this Saints scoring drive and I’m almost positive that the Browns would’ve lost their fourth game this season after holding a late lead, which probably would have been the death knell for Mangini.
Instead, the Browns responded with their most impressive drive of the season as they all but extinguished any hope of a comeback for the defending champs.
Led by running back Peyton Hillis, the offense put together a 13 play, 50-yard drive that culminated with a 48-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll earned his paycheck this drive as he smartly kept the ball on the ground 11 of the 13 plays, and Hillis delivered as he rushed for 38 yards on 8 carries, three of which accounted for first downs. Hillis also added a fourth through the air when Daboll reached into his very light bag of tricks and dialed up the old throwback to the QB play, which went for 12 yards and kept the chains moving.
In all, this drive chewed up over seven minutes of clock in the fourth quarter and basically enabled the Browns to seal the deal, even though it’s fair to make a case that David Bowens 2nd interception return was really the dagger. Either way, this 13 play drive completely killed any momentum the Saints offense could’ve had following the Brees to Thomas touchdown. The Saints may be a great offense and Brees is definitely one of the best in the business, but it’s impossible for them to put up points when they’re standing on the sidelines. Browns fans know first-hand just how demoralizing it can be when the other team is able to run the football down a defenses throats, and it was great to see that the Browns offense was able to play the part of soul-crushers for once late in a game.
Obviously, the Browns are far from a championship team, so it would be ridiculous for me to call this a championship drive. But I will call it a winning drive because it’s exactly the kind of drive that wins football games in this league.
It was great to see that the Browns are learning how to win with what they got after giving away the first three games of the season. Beating the Saints only reiterated that this team is moving in the right direction in spite of their 2-5 record.
Call me crazy, but I’m satisfied with what I’ve seen from the Browns heading into the bye week.