For the first time in 87 games, New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Colston didn’t catch a pass. The leading receiver in franchise history had caught at least one pass in every game he played since week 7 of 2008, and that was when he was limited while coming back from a hand injury. However, Colston wasn’t even targeted once the entire game in Sunday’s 26-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Last week Colston’s overtime fumble led the Atlanta Falcons’ game winning field goal, but Colston hardly deserves any singular blame in the Browns game.
Sep 7, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore (25) causes a fumble by New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) during overtime at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 37-34 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
It was clear early on Cleveland’s mission was to shut down New Orleans’ downfield passing game. At times the Browns had seven defensive backs on the field at once, a tactic that put Saints QB Drew Brees into a sack and an interception in the first half of the game. The Saints soon figured out a way around it, making the Browns pay by running the ball a total of 178 yards and completing two touchdowns to tight end Jimmy Graham, but they did so with out their wide receives. Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks also held to only three catches and 17 yards, after being held to one catch for one yard through three quarters though. Combined, the Saints four receivers had a total of nine catches for only 79 yards. Brees was pressed after the game on why the Saints didn’t lean more heavily on the rushing game and he offered up some interesting insight. New Orleans often scripts their first 15 or so plays, mixing up formations and personnel groups to gain as much information as possible about defense. Using the information they gather they adjust based on where they can exploit weaknesses in their opponents. And that eventually happened again Sunday, it just took a little longer since the Browns’ defense was equally multiple with looks and personnel groupings.
Sep 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) hits New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the second quarter which caused an interception that was returned for a touchdown at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
“Right off the bat you’re just trying to figure out who is who,” Brees said. Brees went on to explain to reporters that earl communication problems and mistakes like a bobbled snap and sack “gave them reasons to get them hyped up and get the crowd involved.” All of this happened before coach Sean Payton had a chance to “right the ship,” and by then it must have been a little too late. “Here’s the thing, we got to it,” Brees continued about the run game. “It didn’t necessarily start off seven DBs, we’re varied in our personnel groups. We’re bringing in two halfbacks at a times, three tight ends, four wide receivers, we do a lot and we change it up a lot. “And then I’d say they were as multiple on defense as we were on offense. There’s times where we’d have three tight ends in the game and then another time they’d play nickel and then even dime. You just had to have good communication. Then I feel like once we got past the first quarter we really had a good beat on that, and obviously the game was well within reach.” Well within reach indeed… here’s how the Saints’ drives ended in order:
- Punt (1 yard)
- Punt (-2 yards)
- Punt (10 yards)
- Punt (24 yards)
- Field goal (73 yards)
- Interception (12 yards)
- Touchdown (85 yards)
- Touchdown (57 yards)
- Touchdown (80 yards)
- Punt (52 yards)
Cleveland wins with three seconds left on the clock with an 11 yard field goal, ending the game 26-24. A devastating loss for Saints fans because the team now falls 0-2.