CLEVELAND -- Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer had quite the debut for the Cleveland Browns.
Kizer engineered a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives, and those scores gave the Browns a 20-14 come-from-behind victory over the New Orleans Saints in the preseason opener at FirstEnergy Stadium Thursday night.
Kizer completed 11 of his 18 throws for 184 yards and one touchdown, and nearly quadrupled the yardage totals of both of the quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart, Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler.
Kizer engineered a five-play, 60-yard drive in less than three minutes, and the Browns punctuated the possession with a one-yard touchdown run from Terrence Magee.
Despite the touchdown, the two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Saints held a 14-13 lead over the Browns with 12:19 to play in regulation of the preseason opener.
After a kickoff out of bounds gave the Browns a first and 10 from their own 40-yard line, Kizer tested the Saints deep and completed a 52-yard pass to wide receiver Richard Mullaney that moved the ball from the Cleveland 47-yard line to the New Orleans one.
Then, on the next possession, Kizer threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to second-year wide receiver Jordan Payton and gave the Cleveland Browns a 20-14 lead over the New Orleans Saints with 1:52 to play in the fourth quarter.
Facing a fourth and two, on New Orleans’ side of the 50-yard line, Kizer dropped back to pass, looked off a defender, waited for Payton to get separation from the defensive back, and then, led his receiver into the end zone with the throw.
The Browns traveled 75 yards in eight plays for the go-ahead score.
A 22-yard field goal from kicker Wil Lutz gave the Saints a 3-0 lead over the Browns with 8:02 to play in the first quarter. Lutz’s kick capped off a seven-play, 50-yard drive for the Saints that took just 2:46 off the first-quarter clock.
Following a seven-yard pass from reserve quarterback Chase Daniel to former Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas, the Saints utilized the running game for two big gains.
Rookie running back Alvin Kamara rushed his way through a tackle attempt from Browns linebacker Tank Carder at the line of scrimmage and scampered upfield for a 22-yard gain that took the ball from the Cleveland 47-yard line to the 25.
On the next carry, fellow running back Daniel Lasco ran through a hole on the left side of the offensive line for a 14-yard gain.
The Saints moved the ball down to the Browns’ four-yard line, but a dropped pass in the end zone from former Ohio State wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. forced the field goal attempt.
The Browns took advantage of a Saints miscue and turned a fumble into a touchdown in just five plays, which gave the home team a 7-3 lead with 8:22 to play in the first half.
Rookie running back Matthew Dayes, a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, took a handoff from quarterback Cody Kessler, made a cut in the backfield, and then, powered his way into the end zone for the touchdown.
One play before the touchdown, wide receiver Rannell Hall drew a pass-interference penalty in the end zone, which moved the ball from the New Orleans five-yard line to the one, but more importantly than the yards, the infraction gave the Browns a first-and-goal from the one.
The Browns’ first score of the preseason was set up by the defense.
On a second-and-10 from his own 20-yard line, New Orleans quarterback Garrett Grayson tried to side-step a rush, but undrafted rookie defensive tackle Trevon Coley stripped him of the football and second-year defensive end Carl Nassib recovered the fumble at the 21.
The Saints cut the Browns’ lead down to a single point, 7-6, on Lutz’s 42-yard field goal with 40 seconds to play in the first half. The Saints needed just seven plays to travel 34 yards to set up the field goal.
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