The humane part of me will feel terrible for a guy like K Zane Gonzalez, who you have to imagine will be cut. But this is the NFL, and you can’t sugar coat it: kicking in a dome, with no bad weather conditions, he missed four field goals: two extra points, and two actual field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder that could have sent the game to overtime.
Cleveland lost their Week 2 game to New Orleans 21-18, falling to 0-1-1 on the season and wasting what was a terrific defensive performance for most of the game. Let’s get to what happened.
After an opening three-and-out, the Browns’ defense got off to a great start by forcing their seventh turnover of the season. This one was more like an “unforced” turnover, though — WR Michael Thomas converted a 3rd-and-2 situation with a reception, but then oddly tried to stretch the ball out for an extra yard as CB Terrance Mitchell was tackling him. Thomas lost control of the ball, and just before it bounced out of bounds, FS Damarious Randall dove and recovered it near midfield.
The Browns got into field goal range with a reverse to WR Antonio Callaway, but had to settle for a 39-yard field goal by K Zane Gonzalez to give them a 3-0 lead.
The Saints picked up several first downs on their next drive, and then got a 25-yard pass interference penalty on CB T.J. Carrie, covering slot WR Austin Carr, on a pass to the end zone. The Browns’ goal line defense got lucky on first down, as QB Drew Brees missed a wide open TE Benjamin Watson when he overthrew him. After a stop on second down, a third down hold backed them up and eventually led to a 30-yard field goal attempt. Wil Lutz connected, tying the game at 3-3.
The Browns next drive didn’t get very far, as they punted back to the Saints in the second quarter. Facing a 3rd-and-6 near midfield, Brees passed to WR Ted Ginn, who was short of the first down. But Mitchell forced another fumble, and Randall recovered, just like the duo did to Thomas in the first quarter.
Cleveland failed to capitalize. In a 3rd-and-1 situation from the 37 yard line, QB Tyrod Taylor ran a playaction fake but was blasted as he tried to throw downfield to TE David Njoku. Head coach Hue Jackson ordered the offense to stay on as they went for it on 4th-and-1, but RB Duke Johnson was stuffed for a loss of a yard and a turnover on downs.
The Saints quickly moved into Cleveland territory. The Browns’ defense came up big on 3rd-and-7, though, when DT Larry Ogunjobi blew through the middle for a sack. The Saints had to settle for a 44-yard field goal attempt, and he missed it way wide to the left, keeping it tied 3-3.
Cleveland had their best couple of plays of the game going with back-to-back completions to WR Jarvis Landry to put them in field goal range. But then, the drive fizzled after a loss of three yards on a screen to WR Rashard Higgins, a draw play, and then a failed tight end screen on third down. At the two-minute warning, Gonzalez’ 39-yard field goal put the Browns up 6-3. The Browns forced a quick three-and-out by the Saints to take that lead into the half.
The Browns’ defense forced a quick three-and-out on the Saints. Cleveland then put together their best drive of the game to start the second half, lasting nearly half the quarter. It took the assistance of two pass interference penalties, including a third down pass interference penalty (with RB Duke Johnson running from the slot to the end zone) that gave Cleveland a 1st-and-goal at the 1 yard line. On 3rd-and-goal, a toss sweep to RB Carlos Hyde just barely got Cleveland into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. Gonzalez missed the extra point, though, so it was only a 12-3 lead.
A 47-yard kick return on the ensuing kickoff gave the Saints good starting field position. A little later, facing a 3rd-and-1 at the Cleveland 40 yard line, Brees dropped back to pass but was again sacked by Ogunjobi, forcing them to punt.
The Browns’ momentum from the previous drive continued, using a mix of the running and passing game to get to the Saints’ 30 yard line at the start of the fourth quarter. Things quickly went south to begin the fourth quarter, though. After a 4-yard catch to Higgins, Taylor overthrew him on second down, and then Higgins dropped a third down underneath pass. That set up a 44-yard field goal attempt by Gonzalez, who missed it wide left.
That was enough to give the momentum back to the Saints. They drove downfield quickly, and this time when they got to the red zone, they converted with a quick screen pass to Thomas. The touchdown and extra point made it a 12-10 game with 8:41 to go in the game.
The Browns’ next drive started with a disaster. On first down, a reverse to Callaway went for a loss of 8 yards, making it 2nd-and-18. The second down play broke down, so Taylor scrambled up the middle and lost the football untouched. Fortunately, he fell back on top of it, setting up 3rd-and-13. On third down, Taylor overthrew Landry, forcing a quick punt.
Cleveland’s defense answered the bell again, this time with CB T.J. Carrie getting a third down sack off of a blitz to force a punt right back to Cleveland with under six minutes to go in the game.
Ugh — and then, on 2nd-and-4, Taylor, a protector of the football, was picked off by S Marcus Williams, with the return coming to the 18 yard line.
The Saints were already in field goal range, which would give them the lead. In a goal-to-go situation, Brees lofted the ball up on the fade to Thomas. It was a little underthrown, but Thomas won the battle against CB Denzel Ward for a 5-yard touchdown, giving them a 16-12 lead with 2:40 to go. The Saints went for two, and the pitch out to RB Alvin Kamara succeeded to put them up 18-12.
Before the two-minute warning, Taylor got completions of 23 and 8 yards to Higgins and TE David Njoku, respectively, setting them up at the Saints’ 44 yard line. Coming out of the two-minute warning was a disaster, as Taylor took a 10-yard sack out of a 3-man pressure. A 7-yard completion to Njoku made it 4th-and-5, and the Browns burned their second timeout with 1:24 to go. Facing a do-or-die situation, Taylor BOMBED a tear drop pass to the end zone for Callaway, who CAUGHT IT for 47 yards! Oh my god! The incredible play tied the game at 18-18...AND THEN GONZALEZ MISSED THE EXTRA POINT AGAIN!
Tyrod Taylor finds Antonio Callaway for SIX! pic.twitter.com/BCWPGQ7PWL— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 16, 2018
That gave the Saints the ball back with 1:16 to go and two timeouts, needing a field goal to win it (or lead to overtime). Oh. My. God.
The Browns’ defense then made their first real blunder of the game, allowing a 42-yard catch-and-run to Ginn, putting the team into field goal range. The Saints could have tried to kick their field goal as time expired, but they passed the ball instead, so Lutz’ 44-yard field goal made it 21-18 with 0:21 to play and one timeout.
Did the Browns have another Hail Mary up their sleeve?
Taylor got a 25-yard strike to Landry over the middle for 25 yards, putting the ball at the 50 yard line with 0:14 left and no timeouts. A 16-yard strike to Callaway, who got out of bounds, allowed Gonzalez a shot from 52 yards and redemption...and it wasn’t even close. Ballgame, the Browns lose 21-18.
- QB Tyrod Taylor: 22-of-30 for 246 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 4 rushes, 26 yards.
- RB Carlos Hyde: 16 rushes, 43 yards, 1 TD. 1 catch, 7 yards (1 target).
- WR Jarvis Landry: 5 catches, 69yards (7 targets).
- WR Antonio Callaway: 3 catches, 81 yards (4 targets). 1 TD.
- DT Larry Ogunjobi: 4 tackles, 2 sacks.
- CB Terrance Mitchell: 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovered.
- FS Damarious Randall: 1 fumble recovered.