Week two wrap: Saints give one away in Cleveland

The scoreboard says the Cleveland Browns beat the New Orleans Saints. But in reality, the Saints gave this one away. They have nothing to blame but their own mistakes.

IMG_1088.JPGThe freshest mistake(s) in the mind of Saints fans is the defense’s failure on the Browns’ final drive. Cleveland started at its own four yard line with 2:46 left. Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer drove to the Saints 11 yard line to set up the game-winning field goal.

Championship defenses — heck, good defenses — don’t let a team drive almost the length of the field with the game on the line. The Saints defense had the Browns in 3rd and 1, 3rd and 3, 3rd and 12 and 4th and 6 situations on the final drive and Cleveland converted each time.

That series was just the final nail in the coffin. The Saints dug their graves long before that.

In the second quarter, with the Saints down 10-3, Drew Brees kept his reputation of playing poorly against the Browns intact. He threw another interception for a touchdown against the Browns (he did it twice the last time the teams played in 2010). Before that, a penalty gave Browns kicker Billy Cundiff another shot at a field goal that he missed moments before.

Nine points (botched PAT after the pick-six) given away in a one point loss.

The Saints defense gave up 324 total yards a week after coughing up 445 yards. Rob Ryan’s unit obviously needs to get a lot better very quickly. The big plays and turnovers, especially in critical situations, are missing.

In 2009, the Super Bowl season, the Saints were 2-0 after two games. They outscored opponents 93-49. This year, the Saints have scored 58 points and given up 63. In 2013, the Saints created seven turnovers through two games. This season? One.

This not a Super Bowl team right now. At this point, the Saints don’t even look like a playoff team. Since 2002, 100 teams have started the season 0-2. Nine have made the playoffs. I wrote earlier that the Browns game was critical.

It’s hard to say the second game of the season is a must-win, but it is. This is a team with Super Bowl expectations. A team that is expected to have a top 10 defense. A team that has all kinds of toys to play with on offense.

That’s the kind of team that goes into Cleveland and dominates the Browns. That’s the kind of team that goes on the road and wins a game it’s supposed to win.

The Minnesota Vikings (1-1) visit the Superdome next Sunday. If the Saints don’t win that one in front of a raucous home crowd, it may be time to hit the panic button.

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