INDIANAPOLIS (92.3 The Fan) – Favored to win on the road for the first time in 2 years playing against a backup quarterback, the Browns had to settle for at least avoided a major blowout.
After falling behind 28-7 in the first half, Cleveland outscored Indianapolis 21-3 from late in the second quarter until the clock hit 00:00 in the fourth only to lose 31-28.
“We’re tired of being short,” coach Hue Jackson said. “Nobody’s down. We’ve got to make plays for him [Kizer]. We just didn’t do it today.”
Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer didn’t get much help from his receivers who combined to drop at least 6 passes. Kizer finished the day 22 of 47 for 242 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His rating was 50.1.
“We have these performances in the fourth quarter. We’ve got to have those in the first and second quarters,” Kizer, who also ran 7 times for 44 yards and a touchdown, said. “We’ve got to win the first quarter. We’ve got to win the second quarter.”
Receiver Kenny Britt, who dropped 3 passes Sunday, caught his first touchdown as a Brown – an incredible 1 handed effort while being dragged down in the end zone that drew a pass interference penalty. Britt also caught a 38-yard pass up the far sideline on a beautiful ball from Kizer.
Britt, Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins combined to catch just 6 of the 22 balls thrown their way.
“We left some plays on the field,” Louis said. “It is what it is. Sometimes not everything is going to be perfect. That’s the thing with playing in this game, you have ups and downs. If you expect for it to be perfect all the time, nine times out of 10 it’s not going to be like that. It’s all about how you come back, how you bounce back, and that’s what I’m all about.”
Between the dropped passes, 3 interceptions and 4, that’s right 4 offensive pass interference penalties, it was a frustrating afternoon for Jackson’s offense.
Tight end David Njoku caught his second touchdown in as many weeks, a 1 yard pass from Kizer with less than a minute left in the half to cut the defecit to 28-14 at the half providing 1 of few highlights from the first 30 minutes.
Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett had little trouble against the Browns’ defense – especially in the first half. Brissett completed 17 of 24 passes for 259 yards and a TD. He also ran for 2 scores in the win.
Browns rookie safety Jabrill Peppers continued to play ‘angel’ 25, 30, 35 yards away from the line of scrimmage Sunday and it did nothing to save the Browns early.
Peppers whiffed on a would-be tackle of T.Y. Hilton that ended in a 61-yard touchdown and he was called for a 34-yard pass interference on the next Colts possession that set up the fourth touchdown of the day and a 28-7 deficit.
“I ran to fill my gap, it was play-action,” Peppers said of the flag. “I saw him running like wide open so I just tried to run and match the route. I looked back, but I guess he kinda was running this way as I was looking back. Foot got tangled up, fell, PI. It is what it is. gave us a place to stand. You just gotta be more effective down there in the red zone.”
Gregg Williams’ philosophy of trying to prevent deep balls and big pass plays with Peppers deep resulted in completions of 61 (TD), 34, 31, 25, 22, and 20 yards.
Williams’ defense gave up 260 yards and 4 touchdowns in the first half alone before bouncing back in the second half to give the offense a chance to rally.
But the hole once again was too deep.