Browns vs. Colts: Luck, Defense Lift Indianapolis Back to .500
They couldn't keep him out of the end zone, however, as the Indianapolis Colts rode Luck's two first-half rushing touchdowns to a nail-biting 17-13 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
With just under seven minutes to play in the game, Brandon Weeden found a wide-open Josh Gordon for what would have been the go-ahead pass, but the potential 41-yard touchdown was flat dropped, preserving the Indianapolis lead.
The Colts were highly efficient on offense in the first half, scoring touchdowns on two of three drives, aided by an uncharacteristically strong ground game, paced by Vick Ballard and Delone Carter, then punctuated by a short touchdown runs by Luck.
After taking the lead, the Colts stalled on offense as receivers struggled to get open on the Cleveland corners. In the second half, Luck was just 6-of-11 for 49 yards with three sacks. With just 37 yards of total passing offense on 14 dropbacks, the Colts let the Browns hang around.
Cleveland ultimately wasted a credible performance by Weeden thanks in part to a ground game that never got going.
Trent Richardson found no daylight against a notoriously soft Indianapolis front seven, picking up just eight yards on eight carries. As a team, the Browns rushed for just 55 yards, including a 13-yard scramble by Weeden.
Perhaps it was Cleveland's inability to gain traction on the ground that lead to the pivotal moment of the game. Just after the incomplete pass to Gordon, Cleveland head coach Pat Shurmur elected to punt on 4th-and-1 from the Indy 41.
The punt was shanked, and the Colts started their next drive from their own 20.
Cleveland stopped the Colts on three plays and drove just inside the Colts' 40, but Jerraud Powers batted down a fourth-down pass with 1:57 left to all but seal the victory for the home team.
It wasn't a pretty victory for the Colts, but by evening their record at 3-3, they ensure that they will surpass their 2011 win total and temporarily retain control of second place in the AFC South.
They have little time to rest on their laurels, however, as a road test against Tennessee could prove a crossroads for the young squad.
Three of the next four games are on the road for Indianapolis, and the Colts have not been competitive in two road losses.
That made a win against Cleveland all the more critical in their efforts to shock the NFL by stealing a playoff berth in the mediocre AFC.
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