Coach Dennis Allen lauded his team's grit in the aftermath of a 17-10 victory over the Browns on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, and it would be difficult for anyone to debate the sentiment.
The New Orleans Saints (6-9) showed plenty of fight and resolve while constructing their first two-game winning streak of the season, and did it against significant odds, not the least of which included playing the coldest game in franchise history in sub-freezing temperatures and brisk winds.
New Orleans put together another 1-0 week, and there was much reason to celebrate this one.
OFFENSE: Neither team was going to make a living throwing the ball in Saturday's weather conditions, so the winner likely was going to be the team that would be able to impose its will in the run game even when the opponent saw the hammer coming. The Saints ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries. They were missing right guard Cesar Ruiz entering the game, lost left guard Andrus Peat during the game, and still were able to smash mouth the Browns with running back Alvin Kamara (20 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown) and quarterback Taysom Hill (nine carries for 56 yards and a touchdown). It was just what was needed, and helped New Orleans overcome a turnover (Andy Dalton's pass attempt for Juwan Johnson bounced out of Johnson's hands and gift-wrapped itself for the Browns) as the offense didn't panic and stayed true to the gameplan.
DEFENSE: The number that matters most, Allen said during the week, was points allowed. New Orleans only surrendered 10 of them, and the touchdown came on a short field, after the turnover. Can't ask for much more than that. The Saints effectively stopped the run (124 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries), were strong against the pass (Deshaun Watson was 15 for 31 for 135 yards, with no touchdowns and was sacked twice, including the Browns' final offensive play), and forced a turnover (Alontae Taylor's pass breakup led to Daniel Sorensen’s interception off the deflection, which led to the go-ahead touchdown). Cleveland was 7 of 16 on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth down, but New Orleans got stops on both fourth-down attempts in the second half and did a better job on third down in the third and fourth quarters.
SPECIAL TEAMS: No glaring blunders on special teams, and on a day like Saturday, that was significant. New Orleans won't be happy with its kickoff coverage (Cleveland had three returns for 95 yards), but Saints rookie Rashid Shaheed returned two kickoffs for 47 yards and punter Blake Gillikin had two of his six punts downed inside the 20. Solid work, and solid was good enough against the Browns.