The Saints remain in the playoffs with a win over the Browns
Without a roof over their heads, the Saints went outside and dealt with the terrible weather—and the Browns.
They are still in mix-and-match.
Alvin Kamara and Taisum Hill both ran for touchdown runs, and New Orleans left their comfortable dome and withstood arctic-like Cleveland conditions in Saturday’s 17-10 win over the Browns, who were officially eliminated from the playoffs.
The Saints (6-9) were 0-6 in away games this season before they beat the Browns (6-9) in the coldest game in New Orleans history.
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“I didn’t want to be a part of that,” joked Kamara, who wore a scuba-like wetsuit under his shirt. “The elements are the elements, so you’re using common sense there. It was cold. There was nothing stopping it from getting cold. On those long runs, I was really more energetic to get back into the heat on the sideline.”
Quarterback Deshaun Watson led Cleveland to the Saints 15 in the final minute, but he was sacked on fourth down by Carl Granderson – one play after tight end David Njoku let a TD pass through his hands – with 19 seconds left, ending the Browns’ postseason hope.
“Very disappointing,” said Browns star Miles Garrett. “It’s not where we want to be. It’s not where we expected to be at the start of the season.”
Kamara scored on a 4-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter—set up by Watson’s Daniel Sorensen interception and 36-yard return—as the Saints, still running in the NFC playoff game, overcame a 10-0 deficit.
New Orleans came in one game behind Tampa Bay in a weak and wide-open NFC South. They weren’t done yet by the Saints, who traveled to Cleveland a day early to acclimate to the cold weather.
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“We said this game was going to be about mental toughness and the mentally tougher team would win,” said Saints coach Dennis Allen. “Now, Friday morning was an eye opener when we went out, but we were ready for it.”
Cleveland is guaranteed a losing season in head coach Kevin Stefanski’s third year, shaped by Watson’s ban.
Watson was rushing for 12 yards but struggled to pass in the roaring conditions (15 of 31 for 135 yards) and has fallen to 2-2 as a starter since returning from an 11-game suspension due to allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Browns’ porous rushing defense was again a problem as the Saints, who were rotating quarterback Andy Dalton and Hill and throwing him straight to Kamara, rolled 152 yards on the ground.
“When you can line up and they know you’re going to run the ball, and you can still do it successfully, that’s big,” said Hill, who ran for 56 yards on nine carries. “This is what we came to want to do.”
It was 6 degrees at kickoff, making it the coldest regular season game in Cleveland history. The Browns’ 1981 playoff game (1 division) against the Oakland Raiders was even worse.
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It was cooler at FirstEnergy Stadium, which opened in 1999. During the first quarter, the Browns invited any fans sitting upstairs to move to the lower bowl and hundreds of fans accepted the show.
The Saints have never been this cold. Their previous coldest game was 24 degrees on December 26, 1993 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
Kamara’s TD was the 72nd of his career, tying him with Marques Colston for the most in Saints history.
After getting a 23-yard field goal by Will Lutz on the last play of the first half, New Orleans took the second half kickoff and drove 67 yards for the tie-breaker with Hill running from the 8-yard line to make it 10-all with 9:40 left.
A TD Watson fumble gave the Browns a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
With the Cleveland offense unable to do anything productive, the defense came up short when Grant Delpit intercepted a pass from Dalton that exploded by tight end Joanne Johnson and returned it 40 yards to the 30 Saints.
Five plays later, Watson swept left on third down and scored an untouched touchdown for his first TD rush with Cleveland.
Then the Browns ate 8:44 on the clock with a drive that was capped by rookie Cade York’s 30-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
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Saints: LG Andrus Peat (leg) was moved to the locker room in the first quarter, another blow to New Orleans’ offensive line after guard Cesar Ruiz went IR earlier in the week. Justin Evans (shoulder) did not play in the second half. WR Jarvis Landry (ankle) couldn’t catch up with his former Cleveland teammates after he was gone on Thursday.
Saints: in Philadelphia on January 1.
Brown: Visit Washington on January 1.
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