Everyone had this one figured out, right?
The Cleveland Browns' 30-17 win over the New Orleans Saints was as improbable as the Saints' win in the Super Bowl last season. The manner in which the win was accomplished was a work of coaching artistry.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was given a Gatorade shower at the end of the game. It's unfortunate that some of the Gatorade wasn't used to give a similar shower to special teams coordinator Brad Seely, who was either a nutty professor or a genius.
The game in the Louisiana Superdome was a classic case of coaches realizing the odds and gambling big time. The Browns weren't going to win in a straight battle of offenses versus defenses, even with Saints quarterback Drew Brees throwing an uncharacteristic four interceptions.
There was a need for creativity born straight out of the fact that the Browns were 1-5 and had nothing to lose. Coach Eric Mangini, Ryan and Seely took the situation and ran with it in what is a huge win for Mangini.
Seely dialed up two classic calls. One was an across-the-field lateral thrown by Joshua Cribbs to Eric Wright on a punt return. The play worked to perfection as Wright ran free along the sideline before being tripped up deep in Saints' territory.
The trickery produced a field goal by Phil Dawson to give the Browns a 3-0 lead.
The timing of the call was perfect. The last thing the Saints expected early in the first quarter was such a bold move. It set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Apparently the Saints didn't learn their lesson. In the second quarter the Browns had the audacity to run a fake punt from deep in their territory. The middle of the field opened wide for punter Reggie Hodges, who took off on a lengthy run that set up another field goal by Dawson.
If Seely's special-teams call were the appetizer, Ryan's defensive calls were a delicious main course. It's not easy to confuse Brees, but the defense did just that with looks that undoubtedly disguised coverages. Up front there were times when no more than one player had a hand on the ground.
Brees looked like Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy was supposed to look dazed and confused. He was fortunate to not have thrown more interceptions.
If there was icing on the cake for Ryan, it was the play of 33-year-old linebacker David Bowens, who returned two interceptions for touchdowns. The first came when a Brees pass bounced off the back of an offensive lineman and was directed straight into Bowen's grasp. The second interception, which sealed the game, came when Bowens read the play, slid across the middle underneath coverage and pulled the ball out of the air before literally jogging into the end zone.
What might have gone unnoticed in the defense's strong effort was the play of Shaun Rogers, who's been hobbled by an ankle injury all season. Rogers had looked anything but dominant in the first six games, but he summoned the strength to cause havoc on inside pass rushes. Brees is usually lethal when dealing with pressure, but he couldn't avoid Rogers' presence at times.
Also turning in a strong effort was linebacker Scott Fujita, who was a member of the Saints' Super Bowl championship team last season. He had a sack among his tackles and also intercepted Brees in the red zone in what was a key turnover in the early going.
Ryan has come under criticism for relying too much on blitzes, but he dialed up most of the right calls. He'll never stop being aggressive, which turned out to be the proper approach against a superior opponent.
This was a game that had to be won by the defense and special teams. The Saints' defense put plenty of pressure on McCoy, who was making his second career start. The offense did have a time-consuming drive in the fourth quarter that helped seal the deal, but the unit wasn't a factor.
The bye week awaits, which couldn't come at a better time for the battered and bruised Browns.
What happened in New Orleans will soothe many sore muscles.