With no roof over their heads, the Saints went outside and braved the terrible weather — and the Browns.
They’re still in the playoff mix.
Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill each had touchdown runs and New Orleans stepped out of its comfortable dome and withstood Cleveland’s arctic conditions in a 17-10 win Saturday over the Browns, who were officially eliminated from the playoffs.
The Saints (6-9) were 0-6 in outdoor games this season before rallying against the Browns (6-9) in the coldest game in New Orleans history.
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“I didn’t want to be there,” joked Kamara, who was wearing a wetsuit under his jersey. “The elements are the elements, so just use common sense out there. It was cold. Nothing could stop it from being cold.”
Quarterback Deshaun Watson drove Cleveland to the Saints’ 15 in the last minute but was released fourth by Carl Granderson — a game after the tight end David Njoku let a TD pass slip through his hands — with 19 seconds remaining, the Browns finished ‘ Hopes for the postseason.
“Very disappointing,” said Myles Garrett, the Browns’ star defensive end. “It’s not where we want to be. It’s not where we expected at the start of the season.”
Kamara hit a 4-yard run — sparked by Daniel Sorensen’s interception from Watson and 36-yard return — late in the third quarter as the Saints, still kicking in the NFC playoff chase, went 0-10 -Overcome deficit.
New Orleans trailed Tampa Bay by a game in the weak, wide-open NFC South. The Saints, who traveled to Cleveland a day early to adjust to the freezing cold weather, aren’t done yet.
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“We said this game was going to be about mental toughness and the mentally tougher team would win,” said Saints coach Dennis Allen. “Well, Friday morning was an eye opener as we got outside, but we were prepared for that.”
Cleveland is guaranteed a losing season in coach Kevin Stefanski’s third year, which was marred by Watson’s suspension.
Watson had a 12-yard rushing TD but struggled to pass in the blustery conditions (15 of 31 for 135 yards) and fell to 2-2 as a starter since coming off his 11-game suspension over allegations sexual misconduct had returned.
The Browns’ porous rushing defense was a problem again as Saints Andy Dalton and Hill rotated at quarterback and snapped straight at Kamara, rolling 152 yards to the ground.
“If you can line up and they know you’re running the ball and you can still do it successfully, that’s great,” said Hill, who rushed for 56 yards on nine carries. “That’s what we wanted to do.”
The temperature started at 6 degrees, making it the coldest regular-season game in Cleveland history. Only the Browns’ 1981 playoff game (1 grade) against the Oakland Raiders was worse.
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First Energy Stadium, which opened in 1999, was the coldest. During the first quarter, the Browns invited any fans seated on the upper deck to move to the lower bowl, and hundreds of fans accepted the offer.
The Saints had never been this cold. Their coldest game to date was 24 degrees on December 26, 1993 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
Kamara’s TD was the 72nd of his career, tying him with Marques Colston for the most in Saints history.
After Wil Lutz hit a 23-yard field goal in the last game of the first half, New Orleans took the kickoff in the second half and drove 67 yards for a TD that Hill smashed in from the 8-yard line to it to create 10-all with 9:40 left.
Watson’s TD Scamper gave the Browns a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
With Cleveland’s offense failing to produce anything productive, the defense came through when safety Grant Delpit intercepted a pass from Dalton, who relinquished Juwan Johnson’s hands from the tight end and put it 40 yards back to the Saints’ 30.
Five games later, Watson swept left in third and scored untouched for his first rushing TD with Cleveland.
The Browns then made 8:44 on the clock with a drive topped by rookie Cade York’s 30-yard field goal to give them a 10-0 lead.
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Saints: LG Andrus Peat (leg) was carted into the dressing room in the first quarter, another blow to the New Orleans offensive line after guard Cesar Ruiz went on IR earlier in the week. S Justin Evans (shoulder) did not play in the second half. WR Jarvis Landry (ankle) failed to reunite with his former Cleveland teammates after his IR Thursday.
Saints: In Philadelphia on January 1st.
Browns: Visit Washington on January 1st.