At New Orleans
1:00 p.m. ET
Key Decision #1: (NO ball, leading16-12 / NO attempting 2-pt conversion / 2:40 4Q)
• The Saints had just scored a TD to take their first lead of the game, and were coming out for the 2-point conversion. The Browns had their full complement of three timeouts.
• As the Saints break the huddle, QB Drew Brees sprints out to a WR position, and backup QB Taysom Hill becomes the QB in the gun.
• The Browns are confused, and are forced to call a timeout – a critical timeout that they perhaps could have used in the game’s final moments.
Key Decision #2: (CLE ball, trailing 18-12 / fourth-and-5 NO 47 / 1:24 4Q)
• The Browns have one last play to try to tie the game and just prior to this play, they burn timeout no. 2 of the second half.
• The question here for the Saints is this: rush three and play coverage, or blitz? Rushing three in earlier, similar situations had not worked.
• The Saints decide to rush three. Browns QB Tyrod Taylor has time to throw, and even with eight players in coverage, the Saints allowed Browns WR Antonio Callaway to get behind the coverage for a 47-yard TD reception.
Key Decision #3: (NO ball, score tied 18-18 / second-and-11 CLE 26 / 0:35 4Q)
• The Saints are in FG position – perhaps a winning FG, and they had just taken a timeout. On this play, the Saints choose to throw the ball, instead of running it and forcing the Browns to call their final timeout.
• The pass is incomplete; now it is third-and-11 … and the Saints throw incomplete again.
• The Saints kick a FG and lead 21-18, but the Browns retain their final timeout.
• The Browns ultimately use that final timeout and march into position for a game-tying 51-yard FG attempt that is no good.
• The Browns came into the game with an excellent game plan on both sides of the ball. The Browns defense stifled the Saints the entire game, benefiting from DC Gregg Williams’ knowledge of the Saints’ offensive tendencies. Offensively, they did their best to put QB Tyrod Taylor on the move, give him safe throws, and utilize their running game, particularly rookie RB Nick Chubb, to keep the chains moving. The game plan was good enough to win this game.
• The Browns also made excellent in-game adjustments. On defense, they mixed up the blitz calls well, and repeatedly had success getting home on third down.
• Saints head coach Sean Payton did not handle the clock management well at the end of the game, allowing the Browns to retain a key timeout.
• Last season, the Saints’ defensive front four provided much more pass rush; in this game, it was largely ineffective. However, the Saints did not make much of an in-game adjustment here, and consequently, Browns QB Taylor had a lot of easy completions that kept the chains moving.