This is the backstory to one of the great moments of Week 2, the Cleveland Browns' dramatic last-second win over the New Orleans Saints. The Browns' epic victory, as well as the Green Bay Packers' come-from-behind win over the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears' frantic fourth-quarter rally past the San Francisco 49ers are nominees for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the week. Cast your vote for the GMC Never Say Never Moments of Week 1.
The New Orleans Saints entered the 2014 season as many pigskin prognosticators' pick to win the NFC South. The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, were a popular choice to continue to reside in the cellar of the AFC North. This juxtaposition of preseason expectations squared off on a gridiron near the shores of Lake Erie, where the local professional football team was riding an embarrassing streak of nine consecutive home openers lost. The result was a memorable matchup in which a team looked ready to kick aside its recent woes thanks to the clutch play of a well-traveled quarterback.
Here are the key moments before the moment:
Browns bossing Saints
The aftermath: That startling turn of events gave the Browns a 16-3 lead (Cleveland botched the extra-point try ... this, predictably, would come into play later in the game). The Browns opened the scoring in the first quarter on a touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer to receiver Miles Austin, and then claimed a double-digit lead on their stunned visitors following a Billy Cundiff field goal. With all that success early, fans everywhere had to know that a counterpunch from the talented Saints was about to arrive.
Saints surge back
The aftermath: This was a second scoring strike to Graham -- he had a 9-yarder earlier in the game -- and it gave the Saints a 17-16 lead (thanks to that aforementioned botched extra-point attempt). Graham didn't make his first reception until deep into the second quarter. Once the dynamic tight end got going, he was dominant. Graham finished the game with a career-high 10 receptions for 118 yards. This was his first career game with 10 or more receptions, 100 or more yards and two or more touchdowns. Graham's contributions helped Brees move past Pro Football Hall of Famer/Browns antagonistJohn Elway on the NFL's all-time passing yardage list (51,651 for Brees, 51,475 for Elway).
The aftermath: Manziel made his much-anticipated NFL debut as the Browns' offense appeared to have hit a rut (it hadn't scored since the first quarter) as the Saints' offense sprung back into action. In all, Manziel appeared on the field for three plays, one more handoff and a pass play that was incomplete (though, in all fairness to Manzeil, the ball should have been caught). Johnny Football didn't generate the necessary magic. His less celebrated teammate would provide that when the moment presented itself.
The aftermath: That botched extra-point try meant that the Browns faced a 24-23 deficit when they received the ball at their own 4-yard line with 2:46 left to play. In this desperate situation, Hoyer delivered marvelously in the clutch. Hoyer completed a number of pivotal passes on an 85-yard drive to set up Cundiff's winner. Hoyer hit tight end Gary Barnage -- pressed into extended service due to an injury to Jordan Cameron -- for a 10-yard gain on fourth-and-6. A 28-yard pass play to Andrew Hawkins to the Saints' 11-yard line meant a routine attempt for the kicker.
After being on the wrong end of a dramatic finish in Pittsburgh in Week 1, the Browns and their success-starved fans finally enjoyed the sweet taste of an edge-of-your-seat late-game victory. Hoyer is now 3-0 in home games as the Browns' starting quarterback. Cleveland collected its first win in a home opener since 2004 (the Browns are just 2-14 in home openers since returning from their hiatus in 1999).