Colts get ground game on track, beat Browns 17-13
On the day Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano was released from the
hospital, the Colts started playing his brand of football.
They ran the ball effectively, controlled the clock, stopped
Cleveland cold and walked away with a 17-13 victory. It doesn’t get
better than that.
”(Interim coach) Bruce (Arians) said instead of passing the
ball on third down, we were going to run it on third down this
week,” rookie running back Vick Ballard said. ”We went with the
run this week, and it turned out nice for us.”
Pagano couldn’t have come up with a more perfect script had he
done it himself.
The Colts’ head coach has missed the last three games after
being diagnosed with a form of leukemia. He had been hospitalized
since Sept. 26 so he could undergo treatment, but Sunday morning,
the doctors gave him some surprising news – allowing him to head
home where he is expected to stay for the duration of the
Pagano watched the game on television from home, and Arians
intimated he could almost hear the cheers coming from the Pagano
There was plenty to celebrate.
Indy’s third home win in four tries this season surpassed last
season’s win total. They reached .500 for the third time this
season and the second since Arians was promoted to interim coach.
And for the first time this season, Andrew Luck didn’t need to
engineer a last-minute scoring drive to win.
Heck, he barely needed his strong arm in the season’s first
head-to-head matchup between starting quarterbacks. Luck scored on
touchdown runs of 3 and 5 yards in the first half, becoming the
first Colts’ quarterback to achieve that feat since Ricky Turner on
Dec. 4, 1988 against Miami. The only other player on the Colts’
short list is Bert Jones, who ran for two scores on Oct. 20, 1974
against the Jets.
But it fit with the plan as Indy (3-3) finished with a
season-high 148 yards rushing.
”It’s nice to see a little pound, some first downs, two runs in
a row and three runs in a row and get those first downs,” Luck
said. ”It makes life a little easier as a quarterback.”
If Brandon Weeden didn’t’ understand before, he certainly does
While Luck finished 16 of 29 for 186 yards with no touchdowns or
interceptions, Weeden, the Browns rookie, went 25 of 41 for 264
yards with two TDs and no interceptions.
The problem: He didn’t get enough help.
Punter Reggie Hodges dropped the ball on an extra-point attempt,
the defense struggled to stop Indy at critical moments and Josh
Gordon dropped a sure touchdown that would have given the Browns
the lead with 6:38 to go.
Plus, the Browns (1-6) managed only 55 yards rushing, a
season-best for the Colts defense.
Running back Trent Richardson gamely attempted to play through a
rib injury, but after carrying eight times for 8 yards in the first
half, coach Pat Shurmur kept Richardson on the bench in the second
”He just, in my opinion, the way the game was going, wasn’t
quite effective,” Shurmur said. ”I don’t think the injury there
contributed, so no he didn’t re-injure it.”
Richardson’s absence didn’t help matters.
Weeden waited impatiently through the first half as Luck took
the Colts on two time-consuming drives, the first ending with his
3-yard run, the second with a 5-yard score on a roll out to the
The Browns countered with one of Weeden’s TD passes, Greg
Little’s juggling 14-yard catch in the back of the end zone that
stood up to a replay review. But the botched extra point made it
14-6 at the half.
Weeden started quickly in the second half, throwing a 33-yard TD
pass to Gordon to make it 14-13.
Luck came right back, setting up Adam Vinatieri for a 38-yard
field goal late in the third quarter.
”I would say it was frustrating for some odd reasons,” Weeden
said. ”I mean we really only touched in the first half twice. …
Both of us put together really long, good drives and it was a
possession game, so that was the weirdest thing.”
Cleveland still had its chances.
Sheldon Brown recovered Luck’s fumble at the 50, and three plays
later, Weeden appeared to drop the ball right into Gordon’s hands
for a TD. The drop forced a punt that made Cleveland fans and new
owner Jimmy Haslam cringe.
”I just couldn’t bring it in, and I dropped it,” he said.
”The ball hit my hands and I dropped it. Big-time players make
big-time plays. It just didn’t happen. In a big-time moment like
that, you could definitely blame the loss on me.”
After the Browns’ defense forced another stop, Weeden drove the
Browns to the Indy 39 but a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Cleveland got one more play, needing 80 yards with 1 second left
to win it, but after five laterals and a fumble, Josh Cribbs was
forced out of bounds, and the Colts were celebrating.
”I’m thrilled to hear about that,” Luck said of Pagano. ”I’m
more thrilled about that than the win.”
NOTES: Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin left with a calf
injury during the first half and didn’t return. Brown hurt his left
ankle and left briefly. … Cleveland has lost 11 straight road
games. The Browns haven’t won two consecutive against the Colts
since 1988. … Reggie Wayne caught six passes for 73 yards, and
Ballard ran 20 times for 84 yards for the Colts. … Colts right
tackle Winston Justice left in the second half with an ankle
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