September 16, 2018 / 8:32 PM / 10 days ago

Saints escape Browns in wild final minutes

Drew Brees connected on a pair of short touchdown passes to Michael Thomas in a six-minute span of the fourth quarter, and Wil Lutz kicked a 44-yard field goal with 21 seconds to lift the New Orleans Saints to a 21-18 comeback victory over the Cleveland Browns Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Browns (0-1-1) had a chance to force overtime for the second consecutive week, but Cleveland kicker Zane Gonzalez pushed a 52-yard field-goal attempt wide right with three seconds remaining. Gonzalez also missed two extra points and a 44-yard field-goal attempt earlier in the game.

Brees found Thomas on a 2-yard slant with 8:41 left to pull the Saints within 12-10, and then after safety Marcus Williams intercepted Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor on the next series, the Saints had the ball at the Browns’ 18.

Four plays later, Brees found Thomas in the back of the end zone, and Thomas outleaped cornerback Denzel Ward for what looked like the game-winner. A successful two-point conversion by Alvin Kamara put the Saints up 18-12 with 2:40 left.

But the Browns quickly drove 75 yards to tie the game, 18-18, on a 47-yard pass from Taylor to rookie Antonio Callaway with 1:16 left. However, Gonzalez hooked the potential go-ahead extra point to the left.

Brees then took the Saints 49 yards in six plays, and Lutz nailed his 44-yarder, putting the Saints up 21-18 with 21 seconds left.

Incredibly, the Browns still had a chance. Taylor hit Jarvis Landry for 25 yards to midfield and Callaway for 16 to the Saints’ 34 with 8 seconds left.

Gonzales could have forced overtime, but his kick sailed wide right, preserving the Saints’ victory. The Saints are now 1-1.

Cleveland extended its lead to 12-3 late in the third quarter on a 1-yard sweep off left end by Carlos Hyde, but Gonzalez missed the PAT wide left.

The Saints’ offense, which exploded for 40 points in the season opener, was forced to punt on three of its first four drives of the second half.

Brees (28 of 35 for 243 yards) finally got something going early in the fourth quarter, driving the Saints 66 yards in nine plays before Thomas’ first touchdown.

The critical play on the scoring drive came when Browns safety Derrick Kindred was flagged for illegal contact on a third-and-3, wiping out what would have been a drive-killing sack by nose tackle Larry Ogunjobi. Given the reprieve, the Saints scored six plays later.

—Field Level Media

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