1. ‘There’s a good team in there,’ but Browns’ search for 1st win continues
The Browns have been a part of two of the most dramatic finishes to start the NFL season with each game coming down to the final play. The new-look roster just doesn’t have anything to show for it in the win column.
Last week’s tie to the Steelers was followed by a gut-wrenching, last-second loss to the Saints on Sunday. A play or two here or there, and the Browns easily could be 2-0 heading into a Thursday Night matchup with the Jets. Instead, Cleveland sits at 0-1-1 after a 21-18 loss that featured a blown, nine-point, fourth-quarter lead and a slew of misses on field goals and extra points that could have made a difference against one of the league’s best teams in their own building.
“They’re all tough. Last week was tough. These games in this league are always going to be tough,” defensive back T.J. Carrie said. “There’s never an easy one. We had multiple opportunities to capitalize on as a team. We came up one too short.”
For the most part, Cleveland executed its game plan against a Saints team that boasts a potent offense and an opportunistic defense. The Browns slowed the game down and used methodical possessions to keep Drew Brees and Co. off the field. And when they were, Cleveland’s defense established control on the line of scrimmage and kept big plays to a minimum.
It was working, and the Browns held a lead for the majority of the second half. Cleveland just couldn’t seize upon the moments that would have put the game out of reach.
Leading 12-3 in the fourth quarter, the Browns saw an opportunity to extend their advantage turn into a 10-point swing. Zane Gonzalez’s first missed field goal, a 44-yard attempt, was promptly followed by the Saints’ first touchdown drive of the game. After an improbable, 47-yard touchdown pass by Tyrod Taylor to Antonio Callaway evened the score, 18-18, with a little more than a minute to play, Gonzalez missed the extra point. And with one last chance to send the game to overtime, Gonzalez missed a 52-yarder.
“Kicks, those are things that happen. There’s always other plays on offense and defense that we could have put ourselves in a better position,” Carrie said. “We can’t blame it on the kicks. Defensively, we could have done a better job … offensively, they could have capitalized on some more of those opportunities we had.
Photos: Browns play Saints in Week 2
See the best photos as the Cleveland Browns play the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 2.
“As a whole, we win together and lose together.”
Together, the Browns have to move on in a hurry from such a heartbreaking loss. Cleveland has just a few days to rest before it hosts the Jets in a primetime matchup. The results have been tough to stomach, but Browns coach Hue Jackson’s confidence hasn’t waned from a team he believes has the talent to win games like these more often than not.
“There’s a good team in that locker room. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. There’s a good football team in that room,” Jackson said. “We’ve just got to make sure we do the right things all the time to give us a chance to win.”
2. How about that catch from Antonio Callaway?
The Browns were looking for five but ended up with six on their biggest pass play of the season.
Positioned at the Saints’ 47-yard line with time winding down, Cleveland, trailing 18-12, had to convert a fourth-and-5 to keep the game alive. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor opted not to play it safe, and the Browns came away with an improbable, game-tying touchdown.
Taylor’s two fastest targets, Antonio Callaway and Jarvis Landry, streaked down the field as Taylor used every last second to his advantage. Ultimately, Taylor threw it toward the end zone. Both receivers thought the ball was intended for them.
“I thought it was overthrown,” Landry said. “I thought Ty was throwing it to me and I looked and saw Antonio hit another gear at the end.”
Callaway, making his first NFL start, caught the ball in stride, kept possession of it and made sure to get both of his feet in bounds for his first NFL touchdown. The score tied the game and set up the Browns to take the lead, but Gonzalez missed the ensuing extra point.
“That was a big-time catch,” Jackson said. “He’s got burst. He can go get the ball and he’s got to continue to do that for us.”
The catch was the biggest of Callaway’s three on the day for 81 yards. The fourth-round rookie saw a much-increased workload from the 15 snaps he had against the Steelers in Week 1, and that promises to continue in the wake of the Browns’ plans to release Josh Gordon on Monday.
“That’s big time, that’s big boy football,” Landry said. “That’s what we expect out of him to do. We’re going to need a lot more out of him just like that.”
3. Zane Gonzalez ‘overcompensated’ on final FG miss
Gonzalez admitted after the game his missed kicks started to “snowball” on him, and the way he missed his final attempt, a 52-yarder that would have sent the game to overtime, was indicative of it.
Before Gonzalez lined up the attempt with 8 seconds to play, he’d previously missed two extra points and a 44-yard field goal. All three were pulled to the left.
“I felt good on all of them heading out there,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez’s final attempt immediately sailed to the right, clinching the Browns’ first loss of the season.
“It snowballed. I was pulling them and that last one I pushed it. I overcompensated,” Gonzalez said. “There’s no excuses for it. I get paid to make those kicks and I have to make them.”
Gonzalez, who made two, 39-yard field goals in the first half, is 2-of-5 on the season on field goals. He missed just one extra point all last season but has two through the first two weeks.
“We’ve got another big game coming up on Thursday,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve just got to get my mind right for that one.”