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4 turning points: Browns on right, wrong end of goal-line stands

Posted Aug 10, 2017

Cleveland beats New Orleans in preseason opener

Analyzing four key moments in the Browns’ 20-14 preseason victory over the Saints.

1. After struggling to generate much of anything on its first three drives, the Browns offense got rolling a bit at the end of the first quarter and into the second.

The biggest play of the possession came on third-and-9, when Brock Osweiler correctly read a blitz and fired a pass to a crossing Ricardo Louis, who made the extra effort to get a first down. An Isaiah Crowell run a few plays later got the ball to New Orleans’ 7 with four plays to score.

The Browns ultimately came away with nothing. Osweiler fired back-to-back incomplete passes before connecting with Kenny Britt for a 4-yard pass on third down. During the regular season, Cleveland probably would have settled for the field goal but opted to go for it on this night. Another pass to Britt was batted away to give the ball back to New Orleans.

“We made some plays on the (fourth) drive and we were able to move the ball down the field,” Osweiler said. “It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t end the drive with a touchdown. Once again, that falls onto me.

“There is no one who is going to study the tape harder to figure out why we didn’t score a touchdown on that drive and what we can do different next time to make sure that that drive does end in points.”

2. On one of their final series of the night, Cleveland’s second-team defensive unit went out on a high note with a goal-line stand of its own.

The odds were stacked against the group after a Garrett Grayson 32-yard pass to TommyLee Lewis put the Saints at the 3-yard line. It was the 1-yard line on second down, but the Saints only went backward from that point. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Briean Boddy-Calhoun sniffed out an end-around and drove his shoulder into Lewis for a 7-yard loss. His celebration took him to the 30-yard line before he retreated to a jubilant sideline.

“We pride ourselves on not letting the offense in,” defensive end Nate Orchard said. “I’m proud of the guys for showing up. The middle linebacker is controlling that defense. (Kenneth Olugbode) did a phenomenal job making the calls and making us successful.”

3. With rookie DeShone Kizer at quarterback, the Browns couldn’t keep the chains moving enough to get anywhere near scoring distance in the third quarter. It was trending that way early in the fourth quarter until the rookie made his best throw -- to that point -- as a Brown.

Facing a third-and-long, Kizer evaded a first wave of rushers, pump-faked and evaded another rusher before hitting Richard Mullaney in stride for a 52-yard gain. The Browns cracked the end zone on the very next play with a Terrence Magee run.

“He has a lot of work to do. He has to keep growing, he has to keep working, but a night like tonight, for a young player as you mentioned, will give him confidence,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said of Kizer. “The ears really get open now. You know, keep listening to the coaches and great things happen, so hopefully he will keep working. I am sure he will, just like the rest of our quarterbacks and the rest of our football team. We just have to continue to grow and get better.”

4. Kizer aced his first game-on-the-line test with more than just his game-winning touchdown pass. It was multiple, big throws that allowed him to amass 96 yards on a single possession.

Kizer rebounded from a first-down sack with an 18-yard throw to Mullaney to get his second first down of the drive. Facing third-and-24 after a holding penalty and incomplete pass, Kizer made up most of it with a 22-yard pass to Rannell Hall.

Instead of fourth-and-long, the Browns had a manageable fourth-and-2. The playbook opened up, and Kizer capitalized with a perfectly thrown deep ball to Jordan Payton.

“I gave him two plays. I gave him two plays, and I thought in that moment, he handled that extremely well,” Jackson said. “He had an opportunity to do a couple of things and he did the right thing based on our conversation. Payton converted the route, which he should have, and DeShone found him.”

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