CLEVELAND (AP) — Brian Hoyer took the Browns down the field and to something they haven't had in 10 years — a win in the home opener.
Hoyer directed an 85-yard drive to set up Billy Cundiff's 29-yard field goal with three seconds left, giving Cleveland a 26-24 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Cundiff's kick helped the Browns (1-1) snap a nine-game losing streak in home openers and gave rookie coach Mike Pettine his first NFL win. Johnny Manziel made a perfunctory NFL debut for a handful of plays, but had no impact.
Hoyer was marvelous in the clutch, moving the Browns from their own 4 to the New Orleans 11 in 2:43, and Cundiff took it from there. Hoyer completed several big passes on the drive, including one on fourth down and a 28-yarder to Andrew Hawkins with 13 seconds to go.
The Saints (0-2) rallied from a 13-point deficit to take the lead on Mark Ingram's 1-yard TD run with 12:12 left.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes to tight end Jimmy Graham and moved past Hall of Famer John Elway into fourth place on the NFL's career passing list.
Down 24-23, Hoyer took over in the shadow of his own end zone. Missing suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon and without injured Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron and running back Ben Tate, Hoyer marched the Browns down the field.
He completed two passes on third down and kept the drive alive by firing a 10-yard strike over the middle to tight end Gary Barnidge on fourth down. With 15 seconds remaining, Hawkins somehow got behind New Orleans defense and Hoyer lobbed him the ball down to the Cleveland 11.
Out came Cundiff, who drilled his kick to the delight of Browns fans, who seconds earlier feared they would witness another heart-breaker.
Hoyer went 8 of 11 for 77 yards on the last drive and finished 24 of 40 for 204 yards and a TD. He came off the field for a few plays as Manziel handed the ball off twice and had one incompletion.
Safety Tashaun Gipson returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown for the Browns, who lost their season opener in Pittsburgh last week.
After a terrible start, Brees got into a groove and had the Saints in position to bounce back from a tough overtime loss last week in Atlanta. But New Orleans defense couldn't stop the Browns late and coordinator Rob Ryan and coach Sean Payton had a heated discussion on the sideline in the fourth quarter.
It was a milestone day for Brees, who jumped Hall of Famer John Elway into fourth place in career yardage. Brees went by Elway on a six-yard completion in the second quarter to Graham, who didn't make his first catch until deep into the second quarter.
Brees went 27 of 40 for 237 yards. Graham had 10 catches for 118 yards.
Browns rookie running back Terrance West scored on a 9-yard to give the Browns a 23-17 lead in the third. West took an inside handoff, made a couple cuts and scampered into the end zone in front of the Dawg Pound before performing a little dance. West and rookie Isaiah Crowell combined for 48 yards on nine carries during the drive.
Brees' 1-yard TD pass to Graham in the third put the Saints ahead 17-16. Graham caught the pass near the goal line and reached across as he was being driven out of bounds.
Brees finally found his rhythm — and Graham — late in the first half. Brees hooked up with his favorite 6-foot-7 target to pass Elway, and the pair hooked up moments later for a 9-yard TD with three seconds left in the half to pull the Saints within 16-10.
Brees was under duress throughout the first half as Cleveland's defensive front harassed him into making quick throws and forcing others. On the pick, Paul Kruger hit Brees just as he released the ball, sailing it over Graham's outstretched hands and right to Gipson, who picked up some blockers and scored untouched.
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Posted on Sun, September 14, 2014
by TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer