Reporting Daryl Ruiter
INDIANAPOLIS (92.3 The Fan) – The last time quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden squared off, the game turned into a 41-38 shootout in the Fiesta Bowl.
Sunday’s game at Lucas Oil Stadium looked to have that feel early before turning into a defensive struggle in the second half as the Colts hung on for a 17-13 win.
“I told the players last week, we made enough plays to win the game. This week, we didn’t,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “There was a lot of contributing factors.”
The Browns tied a franchise record set back in 1974-76 with their 11th straight defeat on the road dating back to 2011.
Luck threw for 186 yards and ran for a pair of touchdowns as the Colts improved to 3-1 this season at home and 3-3 overall on the season.
Weeden finished the day 25 of 41 for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Browns’ 6th loss in 7 games.
“I would say frustrating for some odd reasons. I mean we only touched the ball in the first half twice,” Weeden said. “It was a possession game, so that was the weirdest thing. It was frustrating from that standpoint, but look, we put ourselves in position.”
Sheldon Brown, a week after coming up with a pick-6 of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, sacked Luck and ripped the ball from him to give the Browns new life at midfield midway through the 4th.
But the Browns dropped the ball.
Gordon had corner Jerraud Powers beat but dropped what should have been 41-yard TD pass from Weeden in the end zone on a 3rd and 1 with under 7 minutes to play.
“He makes that catch nine times out of 10, so be it, it didn’t happen on this day, but I stay positive with him,” Weeden said. “He’s made a lot of big plays. He’s coming into his own and he’s becoming a really good player.”
Running back Trent Richardson tried to give it a go with sore ribs but wasn’t able to play the second half. Richardson was tentative when he touched the ball in the first half and finished with 8 yards on 8 carries.
“The injury was pretty bad, I guess it limited me a lot,” Richardson said. “I sat down, so, you know, it just hurt me not being out there, hurt me inside not being out there.
“I didn’t want to come out. I said Pat knows what’s best. He made his decision, and I think he made a great decision.”
With the Colts allowing an average of 159 yards per game on the ground, the Browns threw it 41 times and the Browns mustered a measly 55 yards.
The Browns shot themselves in the foot repeatedly – especially on special teams.
3 penalties on returns pinned the Browns offense deep in their own territory. Throw in a botched PAT and 21-yard punt at a critical time in the 4th quarter and it was another atrocious effort by the unit which has struggled under coordinator Chris Tabor.
Luck and the Colts opened the game with an 11-play 80-yard drive capped by his 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
The Browns answered with their longest drive of the season – a 16-play 90-yard march down the field.
Josh Cribbs wiped out a Ben Watson 2-yard TD reception with an offensive interference penalty but Weeden wasn’t fazed. He found Greg Little in the back of the end zone for a leaping, juggling 14-yard catch. Reggie Hodges wasn’t able to get the hold down on the PAT so the Colts remained in front 7-6.
Indy countered with a 16-play 76-yard drive and Luck’s second rushing touchdown – a 5-yard run on a naked bootleg to the right pylon and a 14-6 lead.
After moving up and down the field at will for most of the first half against the Browns, Cleveland’s defense tightened up allowing just 3 points the rest of the way.
Late in the second quarter, Buster Skrine made a nice tackle of Reggie Wayne on 3rd down, Billy Winn took the bait and jumped offside on a 4th and inches when everyone in the stadium and watching on TV knew that’s what the Colts were looking for.
Luckily for Winn, the defense held and the Browns went into the locker room down 14-6.
The Browns wasted no time making it 14-13 on the opening possession of the second half after Josh Gordon caught his 4th touchdown in 3 weeks – a 33-yarder from Weeden.
Gordon is the first Browns rookie with a TD reception in 3 straight games since Andre’ Davis in 2002.
The Colts gave the Browns defensive no respect and after amassing 321 yards of offense it’s understandable.
Instead of settling for a 40-yard field goal on 4th and 1 from the 23, they went for it and picked up the first down. Adam Vinatieri kicked a 38-yard field goal to cap a 17-play drive that chewed up 8:34 to extend their lead to 17-13.
Despite Weeden and the offense stalling late in the third quarter, the Browns defense forced the Colts to punt 5 times in 7 possessions following Luck’s second TD.
But like it’s been for the better part of 2 years under Shurmur, it wasn’t enough.
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