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Saints overcome tough conditions and Browns to keep playoff hopes alive

New Orleans Saints overcome sub zero temperatures and Deshaun Watson to stay alive in the NFC

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara carry the Saints to win
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints entered week 16 looking to put together their first back-to-back wins this entire season. With playoffs hope still alive, the team was tasked with facing not only the Cleveland Browns but frigid conditions. The temperature was at seven degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of -15 degrees. Wind was gusting over 30 miles per hour throughout the day. The Saints went into the game missing several key players, including Marcus Maye, Pete Werner, Marshon Lattimore, and Chris Olave. The Browns were without Jadeveon Clowney, Thomas Graham, and Chris Hubbard. This hard fought, winter weather game ends with a close Saints victory over the Browns.

Saints top Browns in frigid conditions to stay alive in NFC

In pregame warmup, newly minted Pro-Bowler Demario Davis led the Saints speech. Meanwhile, the Browns had internet sensation Jake Paul reporting from the sidelines. The Browns started the game favored by three points with a point total set at just 32. Santa Claus was also spotted on the sidelines, catching some last minute Christmas Eve gridiron action right before his longest night of the year. Saints win the coin toss and choose to play defense first.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Demario Davis leads the Saints in pregame warmup for a tough outdoor road game
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

First Quarter Recap

Cleveland Browns receive the opening kickoff on this Christmas Eve matchup and take the ball out to the 40, giving the Browns good starting field position. The teams traded three-and-outs a couple of times before anything of substance occurred. It took three drives, but a first down was finally achieved. On their second drive, the Saints converted a first down on a checkdown pass from Andy Dalton. The Saints gained some momentum from this and put together several first downs in a row. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton has a series of bad passes, one of which was called for intentional grounding. Saints punt once again, pinning the Browns inside their own five yard line.

The Saints forced another three-and-out, getting the ball back with good field position quickly. Dalton mishandles a snap and misses yet another pass. He then follows that up with an interception after a ball bounces off of Juwan Johnson. Grant Delpit returns the interception deep into Saints territory. The Browns will continue the post-interception drive in the second quarter.

Score: Saints 0, Browns 0

Second Quarter Recap

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Deshaun Watson celebrates after the first touchdown of the day
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

In the first play of the second quarter, Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson takes a quarterback sweep into the end zone for the first touchdown of the day. The kick is good, and the Browns go up seven to nothing early in the second quarter. Saints receive the kickoff and run three uninspiring times in the heart of the Browns defense. Saints punt quickly back to the Browns. Browns get several first downs after looking to be stopped multiple times. Watson completes a huge first down on fourth and four to Amari Cooper to extend the drive, bleeding the clock. Luckily for the Saints, Cooper then drops a wide-open pass in the end zone after slipping on the ice. This brings out Cade York for a mid-range field goal and the lead is extended to 10.

Saints receive the kickoff with just over four minutes remaining in the half. Taysom Hill finally touches the ball for the team, rushing for 10 yards and a first down. The Saints sideline remembered that Hill was on the team as he converted a second straight first down. Two-minute warning hits with the Saints in the red zone for the first time. Saints finally begin to throw some wrinkles on the field, with both Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara exchanging snaps in concurrent plays. This combination drives deep into the Browns territory where it stalls on fourth down. Saints decide to take the short field goal and will take the second half kickoff.

Score: Saints 3, Browns 10

Third Quarter Recap

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Taysom Hill shows Watson that anything he can do, Hill can do better
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Rashid Shaheed takes the kickoff past the 30-yard line where the second half begins. Saints first drive of the second half looks good as Dalton completes for multiple first downs. Taysom Hill is back on the field and converts a big first down. Hill touches the ball again and pushes multiple Browns defenders into the end zone. Saints run over five minutes off the clock and tie the game at 10. Saints kickoff back to Browns offense for their first possession of the second half.

Both teams exchange punts on consecutive drives. The Browns start a new drive but cannot convert a first down before the Saints come up with a huge interception by Daniel Sorenson. Sorenson returns the interception and Saints are set up with an immediate red zone opportunity. Dalton converts a massive third down that brings the ball inside the five-yard line. Alvin Kamara converts the opportunity, and the Saints take the lead with under a minute left in the third quarter. That is 17 consecutive points for the Saints who kickoff to the Browns at the end of the quarter.

Score: Saints 17, Browns 10

Fourth Quarter Recap

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Keith Kirkwood lets a ball bounce off his helmet that could have sealed the game earlier
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns begin the fourth quarter with the ball after the Saints take the lead. Browns convert a couple of first downs before punting back to the Saints with just over 13 minutes remaining in the game. Dalton once again finds Kamara on a third down for a large 29-yard gain. This drive drains the clock some but flips the field when the Saints punt after the drive stalls around the 50-yard line. Blake Gillikin pins the Browns down to the 10-yard line with under 10 minutes remaining. Both teams swap possessions after the Browns fail a fourth down. Dalton puts a ball directly on Keith Kirkwood that bounces off his helmet to end the Saints follow up drive. Browns get the ball back with five minutes remaining and start at the Saints 20-yard line.

Bradley Roby just misses an interception which would have likely sealed the game. The two-minute warning hits with the Browns 53 yards away from the end zone down by seven. Saints defense pushes through and gets a huge sack on Watson, forcing the Browns to take their first timeout of the half. Watson and Cooper connect a couple of times for first downs. These extend the Browns drives with the latter completion made with just under one minute remaining. Browns get another first down before calling their last timeout of the half with just 43 seconds remaining. Watson misses three straight throws to the end zone, and it is fourth down. Carl Granderson comes up with a huge sack on fourth down to end the game. Andy Dalton kneels on the ball and that is ball game from frigid Cleveland.

Final score: Saints 17, Browns 10

New Orleans Saints v Cleveland Browns
Carl Granderson had a great game for the Saints defense in win over Browns
Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Final Relevant Stats

  • Taysom Hill: 56 yards rushing and a TD
  • Alvin Kamara: 76 yards rushing and a TD
  • Rashid Shaheed: 42 yards receiving
  • Carl Granderson: Three tackles for loss and a sack
  • Daniel Sorenson: Seven tackles and an interception
  • Tyrann Mathieu: 11 total tackles

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