3 Big Takeaways: Browns not using cold as an excuse for loss to Saints
The Browns fell, 17-10, to the Saints on a record-cold and blustery afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium, dropping their record to 6-9 and eliminating them from playoff contention. Here are three takeaways from the loss.
1. It was cold, but it wasn't an excuse With a kickoff temperature of 6 degrees and real feel temperature of -16 degrees, nobody on the field had ever quite experienced a game setting quite as chilly as Saturday. The game was the coldest regular season home game in Browns history. The conditions significantly impacted both offenses, with players slipping at times on the frozen, ice and snow-covered grass field and some passes sailing too far or falling too short of receivers. No one on the Browns, however, was interested in using the frigid conditions as an excuse. The Saints had to deal with it, too, and they didn't have the same benefit in New Orleans as the Browns did with being able to practice in the cold. "(The weather) is obviously not ideal, but our guys hold themselves to a high standard and we expect to make plays," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. QB Deshaun Watson completed 15 of his 31 pass attempts for 135 yards, one interception and no passing touchdowns. He did score his first rushing touchdown of the season on a 12-yard scamper in the second quarter, but that was the only time the Browns found the end zone. Watson said the wind, which appeared to blow stronger toward the west side of the field and away from the Dawg Pound end of the stadium, was a bigger factor in the pass game than the arctic temperatures. "That's tough, especially with wind," Watson said. "You can't control it, and with different air pockets of the stadium, you don't know where it's going to go." But the Saints had to deal with it, too — and they won. "Both teams are playing in the same conditions," Stefanski said, "so it's fair."
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2. Njoku owns up to drop TE David Njoku took ownership of a drop on the second-to-last offensive play of the game that would've gone for a touchdown had he caught it. The Browns had no timeouts on the third-and-10 play, which took place from the Saints' 15-yard line with 30 seconds left. Watson heaved a well-placed pass to Njoku's hands, but the ball bounced off him and fell incomplete. "There's no excuse," Njoku said. "I dropped that ball. I feel like I let the team down myself, personally. I've got to own up to that, and I am. I have to get better." Njoku approached Watson at his locker after the game to apologize. "It was a missed opportunity, and stuff like that happens," Watson said. "Next time, we'll be sure to capitalize on it, for sure. I definitely have respect for Dave and everything he brings to this team and organization, and it shows how much he really cares about it, too. We'll continue to grow from it and learn. On the next opportunity, we'll take advantage of it."
3. Forging ahead despite elimination from playoffs The Browns' season will officially end after Week 18 with the playoffs now officially no longer a possibility. Cleveland will close out the season with two road games against the Commanders and Steelers, and players said they know how important it will be to finish the year on a strong note. "It's not where we want to be," DE Myles Garrett said. "It's not where we expected to be at the beginning of the season. At the end of the day, you have to keep on fighting. You have to have pride about your job and what you do. A lot of guys in this locker room love this game and want to give their all to it. You have to keep on fighting regardless of what the specifics are or what the circumstances are. Just have to keep on going."