ReFo: Saints @ Browns, Week 2
After a Week 1 loss to their division rivals the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints headed to Ohio to take on the Cleveland Browns, with both teams looking to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start to the 2014 season. The Browns started the better of the two and, despite a special teams mishap, led 16-10 at the half.
The second half saw four lead changes but, perhaps to the surprise of many watching, it was the Browns who calmly drove the length of the field to pick up the win via a Billy Cundiff field goal. It’s been a problem for Cleveland in the past but yesterday, with their backs against the wall and playing against a talented Saints team, they found a way to pull out the win where previous teams would have found a way to lose.
New Orleans Saints – Performances of Note
Jimmy Graham, TE: +3.2
After all the drama about his contract in the offseason, Jimmy Graham continued his stellar start to the 2014 season on the field with another impressive performance against the Browns. He did damage against a variety of defenders, with at least two receptions and twenty receiving yards coming against four different Browns players.
Key Stat: With 118 receiving yards from 34 snaps in route, Graham finished with a Yards Per Route Run average of 3.47.
Mark Ingram, HB: +1.8
After finishing 2013 strong, running back Mark Ingram has looked to continue that early in 2014, averaging 6.0 yards per carry over the first two weeks of the season. Against the Browns he had 104 total yards, with most of that coming in the first three quarters. The Saints could have really used Ingram on a fourth-quarter drive where they came up short of being able to run the clock out, but he saw just two snaps on that possession as the team rotated Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas in the backfield.
Key Play: On 1st-and-10 with 11:47 left in the third quarter, Ingram made two cuts and forced missed tackles from linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive lineman Phil Taylor before picking up the first down.
Patrick Robinson and Keenan Lewis, CB: -3.4 and -2.2
It wasn’t a good day for the duo who started at cornerback for the Saints, as they combined to allow 10 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. That included four receptions for 58 yards on the final drive as the Browns moved the ball with relative ease before kicking the game-winning field goal.
Key Play: While it was Lewis who made the error on Andrew Hawkins’ 28-yard reception on 3rd-and-5 with 3:36 left in the game, Robinson also made a mistake on the play, committing a defensive holding penalty that would have given the Browns a first down regardless.
Cleveland Browns – Performances of Note
Andrew Hawkins, WR: +2.5
Arriving from the cross-state rival Cincinnati Bengals this offseason, Hawkins has been the Browns’ best weapon on offense through the first two weeks. He picked up a reception of 20 yards or more for the second time in two games on the aforementioned Lewis error, and continues to reward the Browns for getting him the ball in space.
Key Stat: For the second straight week he displayed excellent hands, with zero drops.
Justin Gilbert, CB: +2.0
After struggling in his debut a week ago, the eighth overall selection from the 2014 NFL Draft rebounded in his first start in Cleveland. He may have allowed four of the five passes thrown into his coverage to be caught, but they went for just 29 yards.
Key Stat: Gave up just 0.85 Yards per Coverage Snap.
Tashaun Gipson, S: +4.6
While the big play that gave the Browns a defensive touchdown in the second quarter, was obviously the highlight, it’s worth noting that Gipson gave up just 4 yards in coverage all game, after giving up just 6 a week ago. That 4-yard reception came on third down, with the safety preventing a first down for tight end Ben Watson before later beating the tight end to record a tackle against the run.
Key Play: The interception return of the Brees pass on 1st-and-10 with 3:37 left in the first half gave the Browns a six-point lead at halftime and meant they didn’t have to chase too much of a lead when the Saints came back in the second half.
PFF Game Ball
Both Hawkins and Gipson had big plays that were key in the Browns coming away with the win, but with his impact on the offense, especially with Josh Gordon’s absence, I’m going with the dynamic Andrew Hawkins this week.
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon