The Browns knew coming into this game that they would be facing a Colts’ team that was without Peyton Manning and embarrassed over their performance in Week 1 in Houston, and with Indianapolis at home, they also knew that that would be a dangerous combination.
But holding the Colts to four field goals until garbage time, and finding enough offense to get the job done, the Browns prevailed 27-19 to even their season’s record at 1-1 heading into a game next Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium against the Miami Dolphins.
The victory was the first for Cleveland over Indianapolis since 1994.
Colt McCoy was much sharper this week than he was last week against Cincinnati, and Peyton Hillis atoned for a lost fumble with a TD that basically put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
And Josh Cribbs set Cleveland up nicely when they really needed it with a big kickoff return and a big punt return to shorten the field for the offense.
Kerry Collins, serving as Manning’s replacement, looked lost for much of the game, and only was able to come through in the final minute, when the Browns were employing the dreaded prevent defense.
Joseph Addai had a good day for Indy, but even so and as stated earlier, it mattered that the Browns were able to hold the Colts to 3’s instead of 7’s while the game was in doubt.
After Adam Vinatieri gave Indianapolis a 3-0 lead about five minutes into the game with a 39-yard field goal, both offenses struggled until Vinatieri came through again at the beginning of the second period from 27 yards out to make it 6-0.
Cleveland finally got it going and converted on a 16-yard TD pass from McCoy to Evan Moore with 7:53 to go before halftime for a 7-6 Browns’ lead.
Vinatieri hit again four minutes later from 52 yards out, and the Colts had their last lead of the day at 9-7.
Peyton Hillis’s one-yard TD run (after one seeming touchdown was called back when Hillis’s knee was ruled down after review) gave Cleveland a 14-9 lead heading into the locker room.
The third quarter resembled the first, with the only scoring being Vinatieri’s fourth field goal of the day, a 36-yarder with 6:52 left in the quarter to cut the lead to 14-12.
But the Browns put it away with 13 points in the fourth period.
First Cleveland drove all the way to the 3-yard line before stalling and having to settle for a 20-yard Phil Dawson boot to make it 17-12. Then, with 3:55 to go, Hillis broke free and scored from 24 yards out to make it 24-12.
Less than a minute later Dawson hit again, this time from 23 yards, to make it 27-12, before Indy marched right down the field against the prevent D and scored with 24 seconds left on a 6-yard Collins’ pass to Dallas Clark.
But Cribbs recovered the onside kick attempt, and it was all over but one McCoy kneel-down.
McCoy ended up 22-32 on the day for 211 yards, with the one TD and no picks, while Collins went 19-38 for the Colts for 191 yards with one TD and one interception.
On the ground, Hillis gained 94 yards on 27 carries, accounting for all but 12 of the Browns’ rushing yards. For Indy, Addai netted 64 yards on 14 carries, while Delone Carter ran for 46 yards on 11 carries.
Greg Little and Hillis each had four catches to lead the Browns, while Mohamed Massaquoi, Cribbs and Alex Smith each had three receptions.
The Browns fumbled four times, but lost only one of them to end up with one turnover, while the Colts lost both a fumble and the one interception by Usama Young. Young took his pick back 28 yards.
Indianapolis won the first down battle 19-18, but the Browns won the more important stat, keeping the ball for 34:34 as opposed to only 25:26 for the Colts.
The Browns, as said earlier, will be home next Sunday to take on the Dolphins, who are in action in a late game this afternoon and stand at 0-1. The Colts will be entertaining the Pittsburgh Steelers next week.
Since the Baltimore Ravens lost this afternoon in Tennessee and Pittsburgh won at home vs. the Seahawks, if the Broncos can beat the Bengals in a late game this afternoon in Denver, the entire AFC North would be 1-1 heading into Week 3.