Groundhog Day: Browns implode in 4th quarter, lose 21-18 to Saints

Missed kicks, fourth quarter mistakes lead to predictable outcome

Daryl Ruiter
September 16, 2018 - 7:23 pm
 Cleveland Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez (2) watches his 52-yard field goal attempt with New Orleans Saints specialist Taysom Hill (7) and cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) late in the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns could and should be 2-0.

They’re not. Try 0-1-1 instead. Still beats 0-2.

The winless streak is at 19 regular season games with Sunday’s 21-18 loss at New Orleans that saw the Browns upchuck a 12-3 lead entering the final 15 minutes and the meter is still running thanks to breakdowns in the kicking game in each of the first 2 games, which could cost Zane Gonzalez his job.

After missing 2 PATs and 2 field goals – including a desperation 52-yarder in the closing seconds against the Saints, who could blame the Browns for moving on?

While the Browns desperately want to put their dreadful expansion era history behind them, Groundhog Day rolls on. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

The moment Gonzalez’s first PAT following Carlos Hyde’s 1-yard touchdown run sailed wide left with just under 7 minutes to go in the third quarter, the tide began to turn, subtly.  

The avalanche held off until the fourth quarter.

Early in the fourth, safety Damarious Randall was called for illegal contact on third down, wiping out a would-be third sack of the day for defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and giving the Saints a fresh set of downs. So, of course Drew Brees was going to turn the flag into 7 points. And he did.

Tyrod Taylor, who never throws interceptions, saw a ball to Jarvis Landry jumped by Saints free safety Marcus Williams, who returned it 22 yards to the Cleveland 18. Again, everyone knew what was coming next.

Brees hit Michael Thomas for a second time for 6 and just like that, lead gone, and the first loss of the year felt inevitable.

To Taylor’s credit he bounced right back and hit Antonio Callaway in stride in the end zone with 1:24 remaining to tie the game and he moved the Browns into position to force overtime in the closing seconds after the Saints went up 21-18 on a 44-yard field goal. The game remained tied after the Callaway TD because Gonzalez missed his second PAT wide left.

Taylor went 22 of 30 for 246 yards with a TD and pick following a dreadful 15 of 40 debut in Week 1.

The celebration from the bomb to Callaway was quickly subdued with the realization that Brees had too much time to orchestrate a game-winning drive, and he did thanks to a 42-yard completion to Cleveland native Ted Ginn Jr., to move them into field goal range.

Instead of trying to squeeze out a few more extra yards with 8 seconds left with a quick throw to the sideline, Hue Jackson didn’t want to chance it and he sent Gonzalez out. After missing his previous 3 kicks, did anyone really think Gonzalez was going to redeem himself from 52 yards, besides Jackson?

It would’ve made for a great redemption story had Gonzalez made the kick and Cleveland won – or tied, but when it comes to the Browns, those are as rare as victories.

Through 2 games the Browns defense has forced 8 turnovers – the most since forcing 9 to start the 2001 season – but the offense continues to waste opportunity after opportunity after opportunity.

The offensive possessions after those turnovers look like this: 6 plays, 21 yards, punt; 7 plays 31 yards, punt; 2 plays, -14 yards, end of half; 1 play, 1 yard, touchdown; 3 plays, -2 yards, punt; 3 plays, -1 yards, missed field goal; 6 plays, 25 yards, field goal; 4 plays, 8 yards, turnover on downs.

That’s not a winning formula.

Every mistake is costly when you play for the Browns.

This new-look team is already finding out the hard way why it’s so difficult to feel good about almost always winning.

There’s something to be said for the Browns hanging with a pair of teams that have conference title and Super Bowl aspirations through the first 2 games. Unfortunately for fans, moral victories sailed like one of Gonzalez’s kicks years ago.  

Groundhog Day has gotten old, but there is a lot to like from this team in the first 2 games, except the final score.