David Bowens returned two interceptions for touchdowns and Phil Dawson kicked three field goals to lead Cleveland past New Orleans, 30-17, at the Superdome.
Colt McCoy completed 9-of-16 passes for 74 yards and Peyton Hillis carried 16 times for 69 yards and a touchdown for the Browns (2-5), who ended a two-game losing streak. The Browns gained only 210 yards, 68 of which came on a key fake punt by Reggie Hodges.
Drew Brees was forced to throw 56 times with his team trailing throughout most of the game and connected on 37 passes for 356 yards and a pair of scores while being intercepted a career-high tying four times for the Saints (4-3), who have dropped two out of three.
Chris Ivory ran 15 times for 48 yards and Marques Colston hauled in 10 passes for 112 yards and a TD in defeat.
With the Browns leading 23-10 and the Saints driving, Bowens sewed up the victory with his second score of the day and fourth of his career. He jumped up and tipped Brees’ pass to himself and went untouched into the end zone from 64 yards away with 3:33 remaining.
Brees hit Colston for an eight-yard touchdown with 1:38 left to go but the Browns recovered an onsides kick and ran out the clock with three McCoy kneel downs.
The visitors forced the Saints to punt on their first possession and used a little trickery to set the offense up in great field position.
Josh Cribbs received the punt at his own 12 and ran for seven yards to his right before throwing back across the field to Eric Wright, who caught the lateral and ran 62 yards up the left sideline before being bounced out of bounds at the New Orleans 19.
The Browns picked up one first down but the drive stalled at the five, leading to Dawson’s 23-yard field goal 4 1/2 minutes into the game.
After forcing another punt, the Browns took advantage of a penalty to add to their lead. From the Saints 42, McCoy threw deep down the right sideline for Cribbs and drew a pass interference call on Malcolm Jenkins that put the visitors at the hosts 4. Hillis then slashed over the left side untouched into the end zone on the next play to give the visitors a 10-0 edge with 6:48 to go in the opening quarter.
The hosts scored on a 30-yard pass from Brees to Lance Moore with 16 ticks left in the period but the play was negated by offsetting penalties. The drive continued with a first down pass to Moore two plays before former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita picked off Brees at the three-yard line.
New Orleans finally got on the board with 5 1/2 minutes to go in the first half on Garrett Hartley’s 32-yard field goal that finished off a 10-play, 44- yard drive.
Faced with 4th-and-8 from their own 23, the Browns dialed up a fake punt and Hodges ran through an enormous hole up the middle all the way to the Saints 9. Cleveland had to settle for a Dawson field goal from 21 yards out with 2:18 remaining in the half after a run and two short passes left the drive stalled at the four.
Cleveland extended its lead to 20-3 on the first play following the two-minute warning when Brees was picked off by Bowens, who returned it 30 yards for a TD. The 17-point deficit was the Saints biggest of the season.
Dave Thomas’s 11-yard catch and run got the Saints to within 20-10 with 13:29 left in the game, capping off a 14-play, 89-yard drive, their longest of the season, that featured a bit of controversy.
On the last play of the third quarter, Colston was stopped after a four-yard gain and appeared to have recovered his own fumble at the Browns 23. The Saints then tried to rush their field goal unit onto the field only to have the visitors throw the challenge flag, asserting that they had recovered the loose ball.
However, the challenge was denied on a play that was deemed unreviewable. The clock ran out to end the period, at which point the Saints issued a challenge, insisting that Colston was down by contact. That challenge was upheld, allowing the drive to continue.
Chris Ivory’s eight-yard burst on 4th-and-1 to the Browns 13 on the next play kept the chains moving and was followed three plays later by the TD pass.
The Browns responded with a 13-play, 50-yard drive that chewed up 7 1/2 minutes and led to Dawson’s 48-yard field goal that made it a 23-10 contest with 5:55 to play.
The Browns lead the all-time series, 12-4 and have won eight of 10 in New Orleans…Hillis scored his sixth touchdown of the year to match his career- high set in 2008…Brian Robiskie led the Browns with three catches, for 25 yards…Bowens had two touchdowns in his first 11 years in the league before Sunday…Brees lost for the first time in four starts against the Browns…He joined Archie Manning (21,734) as the only Saints’ quarterbacks to throw for more than 20,000 yards on a first quarter completion to Moore, who made five catches for 43 yards…Ladell Betts caught eight passes for 48 yards while Thomas made three grabs for 33.