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

treatment.

Pagano watched the game on television from home, and Arians

intimated he could almost hear the cheers coming from the Pagano

home.

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

now.

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

half.

”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

right.

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

injury.

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