Browns hope to get elusive win vs. Saints
The Cleveland Browns didn't lose their opener and are off to their best start since 2004.
What is perhaps more telling is they didn't win their opener, either.
The Browns failed to win at home vs. the rival Pittsburgh Steelers despite forcing six turnovers, and they will be looking to build on the result when they take on the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday.
Part of the reasons for the missed opportunity was failures of the offense, particularly the passing game.
One game into the 2018 season, heat is already starting to build on Browns starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Taylor has completed 62 percent of his passes in his career, but he was only 15 of 40 for 197 yards in the opener played on a rainy, miserable day in Cleveland. The resulting 21-21 tie with the Steelers left fans clamoring for rookie Baker Mayfield, the first overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Weather will not be a factor Sunday when the Browns visit the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. Taylor did not use weather as an excuse for the way he performed in his first game with the Browns after being acquired in March for a third-round draft choice in a trade with the Buffalo Bills, but the eighth-year veteran definitely expects more from himself on Sunday.
"When you look back at the film (in the opener), which we did, there were things that we beat ourselves on," Taylor said Wednesday. "I think that between the first and second game -- of course, for a new group that's playing together -- you definitely have room to make a tremendous improvement. That's what we have to do this week. Continue to keep focusing on the details, learn from what we did not do so well last week and harp on those details throughout the week so that we can go out and execute at a high level this weekend."
The Browns are excited to take a crack at the Saints defense a week after New Orleans lost 48-40 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. The Bucs also rushed for 112 yards and one touchdown.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes and led his team to 475 yards of total offense. That is a concern for the Browns (0-0-1) because last week, despite creating six takeaways, the Browns gave up 472 yards of offense to the Steelers.
The Saints (0-1-0) are hoping for more balance Sunday.
The passing offense was exceptional, even by Sean Payton's and Brees' standards.
But the running game was nearly nonexistent and the defense, especially the pass defense, was poor. The special teams were nondescript.
"It was the first game," Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "Nothing is going to be perfect. We have to execute the game plan better. We've got to get back to basics and work on the fundamentals. We're looking forward to righting the ship."
The Saints know that they can't rely strictly on Brees and the passing game if they're going to repeat as NFC South champions. The running game gained a mere 43 yards, though that was partly due to New Orleans running the ball just 13 times as it tried to catch up.
"That's just kind of the way the game went," Brees said of the Saints' limited running game. "I would ask, were we effective? There are going to be games that are going to be lopsided.
"In other games, the running game is going to be more prominent. I'd ask the same question -- were we effective? If we're moving the ball and scoring points, I'd say it was the right plan."
The Saints are playing a team that hasn't won since Dec. 24, 2016, but one that might have increased confidence after ending a 17-game losing streak by tying Pittsburgh 21-21 last week.
"We saw them put a lot of good things on film last week," Brees said. "That's a real good defense. We've got to take of the football and be effective in both the running game and the passing game and forget who we're playing."
Updated September 13, 2018