Brownstown was the land of unchecked optimism this week, with the team picking up their first win of the season in Week 6 and the franchise successfully transferring into the hands of new owner Jimmy Haslam. But things came back down to earth on Sunday in Indianapolis, as the Browns missed several opportunities to make it two in a row and committed a couple costly mistakes to lose 17-13.
The Browns defense struggled stopping the run, as Andrew Luck put together several sustained drives, handing it off the little-known Vick Ballard. Luck and the Colts ate up clock, finishing two drives with the rookie QB scrambling into the end zone. The first was a scamper through the middle to spot the Colts a 7-0 lead. A hobbled Ahtyba Rubin, who had his calf injury flare up early in the game, could not cut off Luck. An animated gif of the score:
Brandon Weeden matched Luck all afternoon, however, and even exceeded the No. 1 pick's numbers through the air. Weeden marched the Browns down the field to answer the Colts early touchdown. He converted several huge third downs, including on a drive-ending touchdown pass to Greg Little in the back of the end zone. The much-maligned wideout from North Carolina tipped the ball to himself in the back of the end zone, and just barely controlled it as he went to the ground at the back boundary.
The play was reviewed, and the touchdown was upheld. Unfortunately, Reggie Hodges could not control the snap on the extra point and Phil Dawson never had a shot to even things up. As you would expect, that point would come back to haunt the Browns.
Weeden avoided the costly interception all day, and continued to work with rookie Josh Gordon on the outside. Gordon picked up a touchdown in his third straight game, hauling in a rope from Weeden on an out route. The supplemental draft pick turned the corner and broke the plane for a 33-yard touchdown that pulled the Browns within a point early in the third quarter. Gif of the touchdown:
But it wasn't all good for Gordon in Week 7, as a dropped touchdown with a little under seven minutes to play was most likely the difference in the game. Pat Shurmur and the offense took a shot on a crucial third and one inside Colts territory, opting to go deep to a streaking Gordon down the center of the field. The rookie got separation on the Indianapolis corner and Weeden dropped a perfect pass into his arms. Unfortunately, it was an ugly ending to a well-exectued play up to that point. With the roof open at Lucas Oil Stadium, the ball hit his hands as soon as he ran from the shadows into the sunlight. That may have affected his vision as he hit the end zone:
After some deliberation, the Browns would elect to punt on fourth and one, and they would never really threaten again.
The defense stoned the Colts and forced a quick three-and-out, but the offense could not put together a game-winning touchdown drive in the final five minutes. They moved into Colts territory again, but the drive stalled on the 39-yard line, effectively ending the game. The missed extra point, which necessitated a touchdown and not a Dawson attempt, was crucial down the stretch. Still, the drop by Gordon was the turning point. And the rookie was accountable after the game, taking full blame for the loss.