Saints Fall To Browns, 26-24
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham leaps high for a touchdown reception in the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.
The New Orleans Saints lost their second-consecutive game to begin the 2014 NFL season on Sunday afternoon, falling to the Cleveland Browns, 26-24, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.
Billy Cundiff put through a 29-yard field goal with only :03 remaining to give the Browns the win.
For Cleveland, it's their fifth victory over New Orleans in their last six games, dating back to 1993, and their 13th victory against the Saints in 17 all-time games.
Cleveland got on the scoreboard first, at the 5:59 mark of the opening quarter, when quarterback Brian Hoyer threw a short 3-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin, capping off a 9-play, 51-yard drive that took 3:36 off the clock, giving them a 7-0 lead.
The Browns extended their lead on the final play of the first quarter, when Cundiff kicked through a 32-yard field goal, concluding an 11-play, 44-yard drive, to give the hosts a 10-0 advantage through one period.
New Orleans scored their first points of the game with 5:16 remaining in the first half, when Shayne Graham booted through a 27-yard field goal, completing 7-play, 73-yard drive that took 3:28 off the clock, cutting the Cleveland lead to 10-3.
The Browns scored a defensive touchdown at the 3:25 mark of the second quarter, when Tashaun Gibson intercepted an errant Drew Brees pass attempt, and took it back 62 yards for a touchdown, before a bad snap on the PAT made for an unsuccessful conversion, making the score 16-3, Cleveland.
The Saints scored the final points of the half, with only :03 left, when Brees threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham, their first trip into the end zone on the day, ending a 12-play, 85-yard drive, trimming the Cleveland lead to 16-10 as the teams went into the locker room at halftime.
New Orleans outgained Cleveland, in terms of total offense, in the first half, 208-114, including a 106-47 advantage in the rushing department, as well as a 102-67 edge in passing yards.
For the Saints, Brees completed 15-of-24 passes for 109 yards in the first half, with no touchdowns and one interception, while Mark Ingram rushed for 44 yards on only three carries, and Graham compiled five catches for 57 yards and a score.
In the opening half for the Browns, Hoyer went 9-of-19 on pass attempts for 67 yards and a touchdown, while Terrance West had 38 rushing yards on 12 carries.
New Orleans grabbed their first lead of the game, on their first possession of the second half, when Brees and Graham hooked up on another touchdown pass, this one from 1-yard out, capping off an 8-play, 57-yard drive, that took 3:17 off the clock, to give them a 17-16 advantage.
Cleveland regained the lead on their next possession, at the 3:18 mark of the third period, when West scored on a 10-yard touchdown run, concluding a 14-play, 80-yard drive, that took 6:13 off the clock, making the score 23-17, Browns, a score that stayed that way through the end of the third quarter.
The Saints scored a touch on their third-consecutive possession to retake the lead at the 12:12 mark of the fourth quarter, when Ingram scored on a 1-yard run, ending a 13-play, 80-yard drive, giving them a 24-23 edge.
The Browns went on the game-winning drive when they had the football at the New Orleans 15-yard line with 2:46 remaining.
From there, Cleveland went on a 14-play, 85-yard drive, setting up Cundiff for the 29-yard game-winning field goal, as the Saints fell to 0-2 for the second time in three years.
New Orleans outgained Cleveland, in terms of total yards, 397-318, including a 174-122 advantage in rushing yards, as well as a 223-196 edge in passing yards, but the pick-six interception return by Gibson in the second quarter proved to be the difference in the game.
Brees led the way for the Saints, completing 27-of-40 passes for 237 yards, along with two touchdowns and one interception, while Ingram accumulated 83 rushing yards, along with a touchdown, on 11 carries, and Graham totaled 118 receiving yards, including a touchdown, on 10 catches.
In a losing cause for the Browns, Hoyer completed 24-of-40 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown, while West compiled 68 rushing yards, including a touchdown, on 19 carries.
With the victory, Cleveland improved to 1-1 on the year, while New Orleans fell to 0-2.
The Saints return to action next Sunday, when they host the Minnesota Vikings in their home opener.