Browns end losing streak to Colts in 27-19 win
All that mattered was that they finally beat the Colts.
Cleveland kept the ball on the ground, traded touchdowns for field goals and beat the Colts 27-19 to end a five-game losing streak against Indy dating to 1994.
''They're a very talented team, an organization that is to be admired,'' Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. ''And for us to get our first victory this year against them is a big deal, because that is a good team.''
Instead of the late-game bungles they had last week against the Bengals, the Browns (1-1) kept the game plan simple in giving Shurmur his first win.
Hillis' 24-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against a worn-down Colts defense was a pivotal play.
''We have a lot of confidence in Peyton,'' Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas said. ''If we are going to give him 15-20 runs a game, he's going to break one because defenses don't like to see his style of runner. He's going to run downhill and run over people, and in the fourth quarter, they're going to be tired and he's going to be running away in the end zone.''
The defense didn't allow a first down from midway through the third quarter until Indy's final desperation drive, and Josh Cribbs managed to set up the win-sealing score with a long punt return in the game's final minutes.
The Colts will be without Manning for at least two months and are 0-2 for the first time since 1998 - Manning's rookie season.
The offense struggled mightily in the second half. Kerry Collins, Manning's replacement, opened the game 9 of 12 but completed only 10 of his last 26 - most coming when the outcome had been decided. He finished 19 of 38 with 191 yards, one interception, a lost fumble and a meaningless touchdown with 24 seconds to go.
And next week, the Colts host defending AFC champion Pittsburgh.
It looked like Indy might get itself righted when Collins took the Colts 67 yards on their opening series, and Adam Vinatieri capped the drive with a 9-yard field goal. Two series later, Collins took Indy 78 yards to set up Vinatieri for a 29-yarder that made it 6-0 early in the second quarter.
But the Browns had all the answers.
On third-and-11 from the Colts 16, McCoy scrambled left and found Evan Moore in the back corner of the end zone for a 7-6 lead. It was Cleveland's first touchdown against the Colts since Dec. 15, 2002, after three straight losses.
Indy countered with Vinatieri's 52-yard field goal, his longest kick since 2008, to retake a 9-7 lead with 3:53 left in the half.
McCoy had just enough time to get the Browns back in scoring position, and Hillis powered in from a yard out to make it 14-9.
It looked like things might change early in the second half, when Antonio Johnson stripped the ball from Hillis and Antoine Bethea recovered for Indy. But after Collins took Indy to the Cleveland 15, the Colts had to settle for another Vinatieri field goal.
Phil Dawson then connected on a short kick, and Hillis scored on the decisive 24-yard run.
''In the second half, we knew it was going to take at least one solid touchdown drive,'' Moore said. ''When we got the ball back in the fourth quarter like that, we knew we had to put it in the end zone and put it away.''
Dawson made another short field goal to give Cleveland a 27-12 lead with 2:59 to play.
Indy scored its only TD on Collins' 6-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Clark with 24 seconds left. But the Colts couldn't recover the onside kick.
''We know we're capable of winning now,'' Cribbs said. ''We know we're capable of winning on the road, which is big for us. We're going to take this and soak this win up for one day, and then we're going to move on to the next opponent, and that's key.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap