Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR
The winning play came on a 45-yard touchdown to Jordan Payton when Kizer correctly read man coverage on fourth-and-2 after the two-minute warning timeout.
Payton hauled it in and Gregg Williams’ defense hung on to seal the 20-14 Browns win – kickstarting Jackson’s second season just the way he wanted.
“Beautiful ball,” said Payton, smiling ear-to-ear at his locker.
“The [defensive] look gave me the run and go. We timed up perfectly. Run route, get open and catch the ball. It was thrown perfectly.”
Kizer’s other long ball of 52 yards earlier in the fourth quarter wasn’t thrown as perfectly, causing receiver Richard Mullaney to pause to catch it and be tackled at the 1. Running back Terrence Magee pushed it over on the next play.
Those two pass plays of 97 yards represented hope on this night that maybe Kizer can be the home-run hitter missing in the Browns’ offensive lineup for decades.
To Kizer, the winning throw was reminiscent of his first game at Notre Dame as a freshman, when he relieved starter Malik Zaire and produced a 34-27 win over Virginia with a 39-yard TD throw to Will Fuller.
“Down the same left side, right around the same distance, where you let it go and you know you put it in the right spot,” Kizer said.
Asked if that’s his bread and butter, swinging for the fences, Kizer said, “Hopefully there’s a lot of other things that got me here. But I am pretty confident in [throwing] the ball downfield. That’s one thing I was excited about when drafted by the Browns is that Coach Jackson likes to push the ball vertically.”
So what happens now in the quarterback competition?
“I go back to work tomorrow, look at all the tape and make a decision where we are. This was one week. We’ll see where we are next week,” Jackson said.
The Browns’ next game is a nationally televised Monday night affair Aug. 21 at home against the New York Giants.
Kizer played five possessions and finished the evening 11 of 18 for 184 yards, one TD, and was sacked three times.
Osweiler started and suffered three three-and-out series before taking the first team offense 61 yards. The drive died at the Saints’ 3 when cornerback Ken Crawley broke up a pass for Kenny Britt on a slant at the goal line.
Earlier, Britt failed to get his second foot inside the end line on what would have been a 19-yard touchdown play.
Osweiler’s numbers in four series were 6 of 14 for 42 yards.
“I wasn’t expecting perfection tonight,” Jackson said.
First up in relief of him was Cody Kessler. The erstwhile starter was 5 of 10 for 47 yards and was sacked once.
Afterwards, Jackson tried to cool the drumbeat for promoting the rookie from Notre Dame ahead of Osweiler.
“I think it’s way too early to talk about that,” Jackson said. “Let’s see it for what it was: the guy made some plays at the end to give us a chance to win, but there’s still things he needs to do better.
“I’m sure he’s the first to tell there’s so many things to clean up. He’s got a lot of work to do, but a night like tonight will give him confidence.”
One rookie not lacking confidence after his preseason debut was top pick Myles Garrett, who recorded two run stops for zero minus-2 yards, and knocked Saints third-string quarterback Garrett Grayson to the ground to influence an incompletion.
So it was a pretty good night for the Browns' 2017 draft.