Andrew Hawkins' heart was racing. So was that of every Browns fan inside of FirstEnergy Stadium, and around the country for that matter.
Trailing, 24-23, with :13 seconds left and the ball sitting outside of field goal range on the Saints' 39-yard line, the Browns had to make some type of play or the game would end in heartbreaking fashion for the second straight week.
In the shotgun formation, the Browns lined up three wide receivers to the right – Hawkins, Miles Austin and Taylor Gabriel. Although the Browns were moving the football on what ended up being a 14-play drive, things were herky-jerky at the moment.
Immediately when quarterback Brian Hoyer caught the snap, he recognized what defense the Saints were in: cover zero. The Saints weren't playing with a deep safety and were using others to blitz up the middle. There was going to be an opening down the field that New Orleans was not anticipating.
On his drop back, Hoyer looked straight at Miles Austin's way, who was running an out-route right towards the sideline. Two Saints defensive backs read the quarterback's eyes and started sprinting towards Austin's way.
This left Hawkins running wide open down the field.
"You just see everyone fly down, it's almost like you throw a punt and just let him catch it," said Hoyer.
Once the ball left Hoyer's hand, the whole stadium stood up and gasped.
"It felt like the ball was in midair for three minutes," said Hawkins with a smile in the locker room.
But there was trouble. Hoyer's pass was underthrown. The quarterback was hit hard on the play. Hawkins sensed the pass was not going to hit him in stride and began stumbling over his feet, falling to the ground before he even caught the ball.
Alas, the ball ended up in Hawkins' breadbasket. The Browns' stadium erupted in pandemonium. The 28-yard play and throw led to Billy Cundiff's game-winning field goal on the next play.
"I just needed to slow everything down," said Hawkins. "Obviously, it would have been great to have a touchdown, and I'm sure Brian feels that way as well. I'm just happy I made the catch and Brian made an incredible read. It was a great play call by Shanahan and it's a good team victory."
Hawkins finished the game with a team-high six receptions for 70 yards. Those 28 yards might be the most meaningful of his career this far.
"You just have to keep pressing and I think that is what we did as an offense," said Hawkins. "Sometimes it's not pretty and not every play works but it's always about the next play and that's what coach Pettine always harps on."