New Orleans Saints vs. Cleveland Browns – Gus Kattengell’s Preview
Saints – Browns. When this game came out on the schedule back in April there is a good chance that many Saints fans penciled this in as an easy win.
The Saints loss last week in Atlanta has put a little bit ore emphasis on this game. I know, I know, they are just 16 games and each on is important. The thing is that this isn’t a typical season for the Black and Gold. Many teams around the NFL are just looking to win enough games to get into the post season. The Saints are looking to reach the Super Bowl and with the defending champion Seattle Seahawks looking like they haven’t taken a step back that likely means having to go through them. We all saw last season that playing in Seattle is a tough challenge. Hosting the NFC Championship game would give the Saints a better shot overall much less if it had to face Seattle. 13-3 is a record I feel that is the bare minimum to accomplish that, so by losing in week one you now have 15 games left and can really only lose two maybe three at the most!
A 0-2 start would be not be the end of the season but would make it extremely difficult to capture the top seed. The last time the Saints started 0-2 in a season was 2007, they went on to start 0-4 that year and miss the playoffs. Cleveland has lost eight in a row dating to last season.
Last week in Pittsburgh, the Browns trialed 27-3 at halftime but made a game of it by outscoring the Steelers 24-3 and losing 30-27. That second half performance had the Saints full attention this week at practice.
KEYS TO THE GAME
At the top of the list is the New Orleans Saints defense. Call it a redemption game if you will following their performance last week. Atlanta gained 568 yards of offense as QB Matt Ryan threw for a franchise-record 448 yards. The defense missed numerous tackles, took bad angles and most disappointedly failed to get any kind of consistent pressure on the quarterback all game. They are a better defense than what was shown. Head coach Sean Payton spoke about communication issues in the secondary. Safety Jairus Byrd was playing his first game as the team’s free safety and maybe it led to some mixed signals.
Cleveland will be without starting running back Ben Tate and will go with rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. Payton spoke this week how West was actually deeply scouted by the Saints this past draft and his 100 yard performance on 16 carries last week showed why. Crowell scored two touchdowns in the season opener as well. The Browns will look to establish the run early so the Saints run defense will be tested.
BRIAN HOYER vs SAINTS CORNERS
Saints CB Patrick Robinson didn’t do anything last week to ease the concerns of many Saints fans. We might as well get used to it. Teams will throw away from Keenan Lewis. Lewis, Robinson and Corey White all were guilty of missed tackles, bad angles of attack and failing to make many plays on the ball. Hoyer last week was 19 of 31 for 230 yards and got into a rhythm thanks to the play of the two rookie backs. Hoyer isn’t great however. There is a reason the team drafted Johnny Manziel to eventually replace him. Speaking of Johnny “Football”, Browns head coach Mike Pettine said that a “Saints package” could be in the game plan for Manziel. No it’s not. Johnny looked awful in the preseason and if he does come into that game it’ll be a surprise to me. If Manziel does come into the game it’s because the Saints have opened up a big lead and the dog-pound is calling for him.
SAINTS O-LINE vs BROWNS D-LINE
The Saints offensive line played well last week. 34 points is nothing to be disappointed in, especially considering that the team settled for two field goals early in the game that could have been touchdowns. Add the fact that the Saints picked up three rushing touchdowns in the game, two by Mark Ingram and one by Kihry Robinson, and Saints fans have to be happy. Overall the Saints rushed for 139 yards and it is rare for the team to lose when it rushes for over 100 yards. If the Saints can control the line of scrimmage again this game will be a blowout. I get the Browns scored 24 points in the second half last week at Pittsburgh but Atlanta is a much better team than Cleveland and the Saints did a good job against them.
The Saints have dropped 12 of 16 in the all-time series but have won twice in the last three meetings in Cleveland. The last meeting came in 2006 to open the season and the Sean Payton era. 19-14 was the final then in a game where the Saints were coming off of a winless preseason.
I see it 27-17 as the Saints offense scores enough points in the end and I have confidence that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has given enough “encouragements” to his guys that better play is needed.