Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Orleans Saints fall to 0-2 after losing at Browns, 26-24, on late field goal

The Cleveland Browns mounted a furious 85-yard drive to stun the New Orleans Saints 26-24 on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Browns (1-1) broke an eight-game losing streak in home openers, while the Saints (0-2) lost their first two games for the first time since the 2012 "bounty" season in which coach Sean Payton was suspended.

The Saints forced the Browns to start their last drive from their own 4-yard line with less than three minutes to play, but quarterback Brian Hoyer led a 14-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff.

The start of the drive was aided by a Saints offsides penalty. Junior Galette recorded a sack, the Saints' first of the game, forcing a fourth-and-6 that Hoyer converted.

The Browns dominated the first quarter and forced a critical turnover in the second, although the Saints ultimately won most statistical categories.

The Saints were plagued by poor field position and went three-and-out on their first two drives. Meanwhile, Hoyer took advantage of the Saints' shaky secondary play to give the Browns to a 10-0 lead.

The Saints finally got moving in the second quarter on a seven-play, 73-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with a 27-yard field goal by Shayne Graham.

The only turnover of the game was a costly one. Saints quarterback Drew Brees missed tight end Jimmy Graham on a route over the middle. Tashaun Gipson intercepted the pass and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown to give the Browns a 16-3 lead. But the extra point failed when the Browns mishandled the snap.

The Saints scored a critical touchdown before halftime to close the gap. Brees capped a 13-play, 85-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham.

The Saints turned to the running game amid the passing game's early struggles and kept at it in the second half. In the Saints' go-ahead touchdown drive in the third quarter, Mark Ingram ran four times for 36 yards, including runs of 13 and 15. Ingram had 11 carries for 83 yards on the game.

The Browns answered back in the third quarter with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a 9-yard touchdown by Terrance West. Starting in place of the injured Ben Tate, West carried 19 times for 68 yards on Sunday.

The Saints took the lead again with 12:12 left in the game when Mark Ingram rumbled in from 1 yard out.

Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel made his debut in the third quarter, handing off twice and throwing an incomplete pass.

In the second quarter, Brees passed John Elway for fourth on the NFL's all-time passing list.

The Browns now have beat the Saints in four of the last five meetings. The lone exception was in 2006, the first Saints' game for Brees and Payton.

The Saints are now 1-24 under Payton when trailing on the road at halftime.

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