Hats off to Browns' shocking win

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:43 PM ET

Kudos to the Cleveland Browns and head coach Eric Mangini for a fabulously entertaining and winning game plan they employed in their upset victory over the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

The Saints won the coin toss but after that everything fell the Browns way.

It wasn’t all smoke and mirrors for the Browns in the Superdome but there was plenty of sleight of hand magic.

A year ago the Saints were the darlings of the NFL, a team that displayed offensive genius and pizzazz, gutsy unconventional calls from head coach Sean Payton and a ball-hawking defence.

On Sunday, the Browns used that same strategy with dynamic results that knocked the Saints back on their heels and kept them on the defensive throughout the entire game.

Toss in an off day from Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was intercepted three times in the first half and four times overall, and it all totalled up to a stunning 30-17 victory by the Browns, who moved to 2-5.

With the loss the Saints, who appear to be suffering from a giant sized Super Bowl hangover, dropped to 3-3 and are looking up at the 5-2 Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.

Keying the big plays on defence was veteran linebacker David Bowens, who came into the game with two career interceptions in his previous 12 seasons.

But against Brees he not only made two interceptions but he turned both of them into touchdowns — a 30-yard TD near the end of the second quarter and then a 65-yard, game-breaking TD with 3:33 left in the game that sealed the deal.

The fact that it was a player named Bowens that ruined Brees day is a bit of a weird vibe given that the Brees household on Tuesday celebrated the arrival of a second son — Bowen. Hey, you can’t make this stuff up.

Trick plays also played a big part in the shocker.

After the Saints opening drive stalled at their own three-yard line, they punted to Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs, who rifled a lateral across the field to Eric Wright who raced 62 yards to the Saints 19 leading to a Phil Dawson field goal and a 3-0 lead.

The gutsiest call of the day came when leading 10-3 and facing a fourth-and-eight on their own 23-yard line, Mangini rolled the dice big time as punter Reggie Hodges faked a punt and zipped 68 yards up the middle which led to another Dawson field goal and a 13-3 lead.

The Browns also had running back Peyton Hillis throw a pass back to quarterback Colt McCoy to keep a fourth-quarter drive alive which led to another Dawson field goal and a 22-10 lead.

Mangini and your Browns, take a bow. You deserve it.

Frisco nightmare grows

It wasn’t as big a shocker as the above but it was a surprise as in Charlotte, N.C., as the Panthers got off the schneid and posted their first victory of the season following five losses with a 23-20 victory over the constantly underperforming San Francisco 49ers.

The Niners not only lost the game to drop to 1-6 and out of contention in the weak NFC West — yes, they still held playoff hope despite a dreadful 1-5 start — but along the way they also lost the services of embattled quarterback Alex Smith, who left the game with a shoulder injury.

Where does 49ers coach Mike Singletary go from here? The chorus in San Francisco will suggest the unemployment line.

Despite their woeful record, the 49ers were full of confidence heading into the game against the offensively challenged Panthers, a team that had scored just 52 points in its opening five games.

“It’ll be good to make a run right here,” tight end Vernon Davis said a few days earlier. “We definitely have the opportunity right now. Once you get one, it’s pretty much all downhill from that.”

Downhill it was, but not in the way that Davis intended.

Added Singletary: “We have a chance to do something very special.”

Just not this season.

Even with the loss, Singletary won’t admit that it’s over.

“I still believe we can go to the playoffs,” he said following the game.

They can ... if they buy playoff tickets.

About the only thing San Francisco seems to be able to accomplish is to be one of the biggest busts in franchise history.

A fourth-quarter 49ers meltdown led to the Panthers first victory as Carolina scored 10 points in the final two minutes to pull it out

First, David Gettis caught a 23-yard TD pass from Matt Moore with 1:53 left and following a David Carr interception, John Kasay booted a 37-yard field goal with 39 seconds remaining to put the boots to the 49ers season.

It is not known how serious Smith is injured but at this point it doesn’t matter as San Francisco’s season is kaput.

Same goes for Singletary’s future.

mike.rutsey@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos