BEREA, OHIO (AP) - There’s a photo of Cleveland punter Reggie Hodges sprinting untouched past unaware Saints following a fake on Sunday in New Orleans. In the picture, Hodges actually appears to be laughing.
“I don’t know if he was shocked that’s he still running or he can’t believe it,” Browns coach Eric Mangini said Monday. “It was a nicely executed play.”
It wasn’t the only one. The Browns made all kinds of big plays in The Big Easy.
Pulling off three perfectly timed tricks _ a 68-yard run by Hodges, a 62-yard throwback by Joshua Cribbs to Eric Wright on a punt return, a 13-yard pass from running back Peyton Hillis to rookie quarterback Colt McCoy _ and getting two interception returns for touchdowns by linebacker David Bowens, the Browns stunned the defending Super Bowl champions 30-17 in the Superdome.
In a city where voodoo still has roots, the Browns put a spell on the Saints.
By using a dizzying array of fronts and formations, they flustered New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees into one of his worst games as a pro, a four-interception debacle. Cleveland’s offense gained only 210 yards but moved the ball when it had to. McCoy, making just his second NFL start, guided the Browns on a 13-play, 50-yard drive that chewed up 7:34 in the fourth.
And, the Browns (2-5) went into their bye week by delivering a much-needed win to Mangini, whose future in Cleveland remains sketchy.
As the clock wound down, linebackers Marcus Benard and Titus Brown doused defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who outwitted Saints coach Sean Payton with his daring schemes and blitzes, by dumping a bucket of Gatorade over the popular and colorful coach’s head.
“I think the guys just felt like he needed a shower and whatever was available at the moment, Gatorade was it,” Mangini joked before turning serious. “I think they appreciated the plan and him as well.”
The Browns spend a few minutes at practice each week working on gadget plays in the event they find an opportunity to use one.
Sunday, they saw three chances.
On New Orleans’ first punt, Cribbs caught the ball at his own 12 and ran 7 yards, drawing in Saints defenders, before firing the ball across the field to Wright. Cleveland’s cornerback, who has had a rough year in coverage, then sprinted up the sideline before being tripped up at New Orleans’ 19.
The Browns had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Phil Dawson, but the play set the tone for a day of surprises.
“They pulled out all the stops,” Brees said. “You don’t run two fakes on special teams unless you feel like you need to create an edge and obviously they were successful both those regards. You throw a pass back to a quarterback on a critical third down.
“You don’t take chances like that unless you feel like you need those in order to win.”