Zane Gonzalez's kicking woes cost Browns in close loss to Saints


NEW ORLEANS -- Jarvis Landry had four words when asked his emotions for Cleveland Browns placekicker Zane Gonzalez after yet another Cleveland Browns loss.
"Make the field goals," Landry said after the Browns lost to the New Orleans Saints 21-18.
Landry might have added "and extra points," but clearly Landry was referring to four missed kicks by Gonzalez that cost the Browns eight points in a three-point loss.
"It's on me 100 percent," Gonzalez said. "I can't be too mad at myself because I'm the one that did it, you know what I mean? I can't blame it on [anybody] else. It sucks because we were so close to that win, and it's been so long. I just let everybody down."
It's been 631 days since the Browns last won a game; that came on Dec. 24, 2016, and although the Browns tied the Steelers on opening day, that also could have been a win. Gonzalez had what could have been a game-winning kick blocked in the final seconds.
In New Orleans, his miscues started when the Browns appeared to be in control while playing on the road against a team that scored 40 points in the opening week.
Carlos Hyde's 1-yard touchdown run with 6:43 left in the third quarter ended a 12-play drive and put the Browns up 12-3.
Gonzalez yanked the extra point left.
After forcing a punt, the Browns held the ball for 10 plays and set Gonzalez up for a 44-yard field goal inside the Superdome.
He yanked that kick left again.
That gave New Orleans life. The Saints followed with two touchdowns and a two-point conversion -- a wise decision by Sean Payton that in the end put more pressure on a struggling Cleveland kicker -- to take an 18-12 lead.

Zane Gonzalez missed two extra points and two field goals against the Saints. AP Photo/Bill Feig


With 1:16 left, Tyrod Taylor on fourth down found Antonio Callaway for what should have been a dramatic 47-yard touchdown pass that set up a win.
But Gonzalez yanked another kick left, which left Browns linemen holding their helmets in disbelief and Gonzalez doubled over near the spot of the kick.
New Orleans took the lead with 21 seconds left, but Taylor completed two passes to give Gonzalez one more chance. This one from 52 yards could have sent the game to overtime.
He said he overcompensated and pushed the kick right. And the Browns extended their winless streak to 19 games -- including the season-opening tie.
"I felt good on all of them heading out there," Gonzalez said. "But it didn't end up that way."
When the game ended, Gonzalez sat alone and forlorn on the bench, greeted only by Saints kicker Wil Lutz, who came across the field to offer words of encouragement.
Lutz offered words of support on Twitter after the game, writing: "At the end of the day it's not 'just a game' to us, this is our livelihood. Our careers rely on personal performance, as does everyone else's. I will never pull for someone to fail, as I know I will too. I hope to see nothing more than Zane have an amazing career going forward."
Gonzalez's teammates also tried to offer support.
"Shoot, just keep your head up," Hyde said. "Stuff happens. It's part of football. Learn from it. And grow from it. Put it behind you. We got a quick turnaround on Thursday. Emotions for the team? Yeah, it hurts. The second game in a row we had a chance to come away with a win. ... We got to put it together, put it all together."
"It is tough," coach Hue Jackson said. "This is tough. Last week's game ... We've had our opportunities."
The Browns may well make a change at kicker, even with a short week ahead before Thursday's game against the Jets. Former Cowboy Dan Bailey is the most prominent kicker available.
"Who knows?" Gonzalez responded when asked if he thought his job was on the line. "I'm not going to speak on that because I can't worry about that. Just get ready for Thursday at this point."
Jackson said the Browns would address the situation Monday.


The Browns had a lot go right in this game and had chances to win. They used a conservative game plan early to get ahead, then started to open it up. They forced two turnovers, sacked Brees three times, got a much better game from Taylor and had what should have been a dramatic and memorable touchdown to Callaway in the final minutes.



There was only a somber locker room and more questions that couldn't be answered.
As Landry's interview continued, the point about changing the team's culture was put to him: Some teams find a way to win, he was asked, others just seem to find a way to lose.


Landry's response: "You said it best.
By Pat McManamon, ESPN Staff Writer

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