Where in the world did that come from?
The New Orleans Saints would love to know the answer to that question. What took place under the Superdome Sunday afternoon was not supposed to happen. To the Saints, that is.
What unfolded had Cleveland Browns fans blinking in absolute amazement. Anyone who says they are not surprised at the Browns' ridiculously easy 30-17 victory over the Saints is either lying or experimenting with drugs. It was a triumph of seismic proportions.
There was no question that the Browns had a no chance whatsoever to win this one against the defending Super Bowl champions. Give the points, take the Saints and move on to next week.
The Browns quite obviously had other ideas as they made like David Copperfield on the gridiron all afternoon, stunning the Saints with gadget plays on special teams, unorthodox defenses and an offense that managed the game perfectly. From the Saints' viewpoint, what you saw was not what you wound up with.
From Joshua Cribbs' cross-field backward pass to Eric Wright on the Saints' first punt of the game (62 yards) to Reggie Hodges' fake punt (68 more yards) to a couple of wondrous pick sixes by linebacker David Bowens to Colt McCoy catching a pass from Peyton Hillis (13 yards), this one will go down as one of the most entertaining and imaginative Browns' victories in years. That's 143 yards in gadget plays.
It prompted former Southern California and Los Angeles Rams coach John Robinson, color commentator on Sports USA's radio broadcast of the game, to remark, "They ran more gadget plays today than I did in my 34-year coaching career." He seemed impressed.
Major points must be awarded special teams coach Brad Seely and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan for exquisitely preparing their men. Ryan was deservedly rewarded with a Gatorade shower for putting together a rather interesting game plan.
The Browns compiled just 210 total yards and a meager 12 first downs on offense, but these statistics pale to the defense's four interceptions and three sacks of Drew Brees, who was confused most of the afternoon by Ryan's strange defense.
Rarely did we see all three defensive linemen in three-point stances. On a majority of plays, right before the snap, we saw the Cleveland defense milling around. It was damn near impossible for Brees to take advantage of any pre-snap reads because of what appeared to be confusion on the Cleveland side of the ball. It was more like organized confusion, though, because the Browns rarely gave up the big play against the Saints.
It brought back memories of the UFO defense the Browns used one point during their inaugural expansion season in 1999. Some fans remember that because it had never been tried before. But teams quickly discovered then that the best way to beat defensive coordinator Bob Slowik's different defense was to run against it.
The Saints never quite figured that out, probably because the Browns blew out to a 20-3 halftime lead. It became apparent quickly that they were not going to roll over and play dead.
Beginning with Scott Fujita's interception on the second play of the second quarter with Brees banging on the Cleveland goal line, the Browns served notice this was not going to be a New Orleans walkover. This was going to be a 60-minute effort and you had better ratchet up your game if you want to stay with us. The Saints never did.
With Fujita, Chris Gocong and Matt Roth keying the very active linebacker corps and Bowens entertaining Cleveland fans with a balletic jette on his first touchdown and gymnastic somersault on his second, Brees had no clue where the pressure was coming from.
The stats revealed four Brees interceptions, but that very easily could have been six with safeties Abram Elam and T.J Ward each dropping a sure pick. Ward's would have produced the afternoon's third defensive TD had he hung on to the ball.
McCoy, meanwhile, was a very pedestrian 9 for 16, 74 yards and a 68.2 passer rating. The rookie quarterback didn't have to be special. His most important stats were no interceptions, no fumbles and only one false start. It was a classic case of managing the game and protecting the football.
At no point in this one did Browns fans have anything about which to worry. Even when the offense sputtered badly in the third quarter with a couple of four-and-outs, the defense bailed them out. But when the Saints clawed back to 20-10, when the offense needed to give its brethren a break and sustain a drive, McCoy & Co. rose up and took 7:34 off the clock. The Saints, as it turned out, were finished.
A victory like this makes one wonder why the Browns are just 2-5? You'd think they would win a game merely by accident. This, however, was no accident. It was a well conceived and well executed victory over a very good football team.
Sort of makes Browns fans wish next Sunday is not the club's bye week. The best part, though, is the feeling for this one will last two weeks. And there's nothing wrong with that.