The Browns haven’t done much winning in the Hue Jackson era, but they had a chance to take down the Saints for their first win of the season — and first win since December 2016.
A week after tying the Steelers in unbelievably stupid fashion, the Browns discovered a brand new way to not get a win.
The Browns led most of the way — the young defensive playmakers that they’ve drafted over the past couple of years made their presence felt and the offense was just functional enough to keep their Week 2 game close.
Unfortunately, a late turnover and several missed kicks cost the Browns, who moved to 1-32-1 under Hue Jackson with a 21-18 last minute loss to the Saints. So how did it happen?
Tyrod Taylor and Antonio Callaway tied the game on a long touchdown pass
Up 12-3 in the fourth quarter, the Browns were well on their way to blowing the game. Tyrod Taylor threw an ugly interception and the Saints took the lead four plays later on a Michael Thomas 5-yard touchdown.
It looked like the Browns were done. But they didn’t go down without a fight.
The Browns needed one of their receivers to step up this weekend as they wait to release Josh Gordon on Monday. Rookie Antonio Callaway did just that, hauling in a fourth-and-5 pass from Tyrod Taylor for a 47-yard touchdown to tie the game with just over a minute left:
Tyrod Taylor just gave a massive middle finger to all of the haters but of course....Zane Gonzalez misses the go-ahead PAT pic.twitter.com/MquVfTufJF— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 16, 2018
This gave the Browns a chance to take the lead with a potentially go-ahead extra point, but unfortunately they were unable to capitalize. It was the beginning of a rough two-minute stretch for Zane Gonzalez.
Zane Gonzalez had a game to forget
Zane Gonzalez had a couple chances to win the game for the Browns. He missed each time.
In the third quarter, Gonzalez missed an extra point attempt and a field goal. His nightmare day wasn’t over there, though.
After Gonzalez missed the extra point that would’ve given the Browns the lead, the Saints got a quick field goal. They went up 21-18 with 22 seconds left.
Taylor threw back-to-back strikes to Jarvis Landry and Callaway to get the Browns in field goal range, but disaster struck yet again.
Cleveland attempted a 54-yard field goal to no avail as Gonzalez missed wide right to seal the loss for Cleveland.
Zane Gonzalez pic.twitter.com/eEphxisLna— quick reads (@YaBoySavage_) September 16, 2018
Perhaps this is the reason for all those misses?
Turns out Browns' kicker Zane Gonzalez, who is losing Cleveland's kicking job this week, has been kicking with a groin injury that requires an MRI today, per source. Browns could reach an injury settlement with him or put him on waivers, injured.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 17, 2018
Either way, that’s so Browns.
Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were clutch for the Saints
The Saints have drafted well offensively over the past couple of years and they were up to the test against a surprisingly good Browns defense. Michael Thomas had a fumble early in the game, but he bounced back nicely with 12 catches, 89 yards, and two touchdowns. He had a clutch touchdown in the fourth quarter to get the Saints back in the lead.
Michael Thomas reels in his 28th catch already this season— Bleacher Report NFL (@BR_NFL) September 16, 2018
(Via @thecheckdown) pic.twitter.com/hvBcH3YJJ6
Kamara chipped in six catches for 53 yards and a handful of first downs to help move the chains. Almost every time he touched the ball he was breaking tackles and lunging for extra yards.
He also scored on the Saints’ two-point conversion attempt to push their lead to 18-12 after Thomas’ touchdown.
One bright spot for the Browns: They got some help from their young defenders
The Browns have spent a lot of draft capital on defense over the past few years, especially on the defensive line. Larry Ogunjobi, Genard Avery, and Myles Garrett all had strong days rushing the passer. Ogunjobi had one of the best games of his young career with two sacks and two quarterback hits.
Still, the Saints have some serious offensive firepower of their own, and they were able to make big plays when they needed them most.
Even with solid performances from the Saints and Browns young players, the game still came down to a kicker.
This Browns team is undeniably better than the 0-16 squad from last year, but they just haven’t been able to finish games. Gonzalez misses last week against the Steelers forced that game into a tie, and now his miss sealed a loss for the Browns in a game where they were generally competitive.
Even if the way they go about it is different, the result is still the same for the Browns. But they have shown enough growth this year that they should be able to get this thing back on track and get at least one win on the season.