CLEVELAND — Maybe it wouldn't have felt as cold if the result had been a little bit better.
Instead, fans left FirstEnergy Stadium Saturday not only shivering from the bitter temperatures, but dealing with the bitter taste of yet another wasted season.
The Browns fell to the New Orleans Saints in what was the coldest regular-season game in both clubs' histories. With the defeat, Cleveland is officially eliminated from playoff contention, and has also clinched its 21st losing season in the last 24 years.
With wind chills reaching -12 degrees, the Browns (6-9) still started out about as hot as you could under the circumstances, taking a 10-0 second-quarter lead after a 12-yard touchdown run by Deshaun Watson. Yet the $230 million quarterback struggled in the elements, completing only 15-of-31 passes for 135 yards and an interception. His 47.1 passer rating was also the lowest of his NFL career.
Following a field goal just before halftime, the Saints (6-9) came out in the third quarter running the ball, gashing Cleveland's porous defense for 139 yards on the afternoon. Taysom Hill averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored an 8-yard TD to tie it up at 10, and after Watson's pick deep in his own territory, Alvin Kamara took it in from 4 yards out to give New Orleans a lead it would not relinquish.
The Browns threatened twice more in the fourth quarter, but on 4th-and-2 from their own 39, Stefanski called for a pass instead of a run, and Watson's deep throw was out of the reach of Donovan Peoples-Jones. Cleveland would get the ball back and drive all the way to the Saints 15, but three more incompletions (including a David Njoku drop in the end zone) followed by a sack of Watson sealed the deal.
Kamara finished the game with 76 yards on 20 carries along with that one touchdown, and helped keep the Saints very much alive in the NFC South race. Andy Dalton had only 92 yards passing and threw an interception, but was not sacked once.
The Browns are finished at home for the season, going 4-4 at FirstEnergy Stadium. Now merely playing out the string, they'll head to Landover, Maryland, next Sunday to face the Washington Commanders.
The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show has your instant reaction to today's game: