INDIANAPOLIS – It will be a matchup of two of the youngest teams in the NFL on Sunday as the Cleveland Browns (1-5) hit the road to take on the Indianapolis Colts (2-3).
The Browns have 16 rookies scattered across their roster and were able to break through last weekend with their first win of the season.
Cleveland overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-24.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden celebrated his 29th birthday with a 17-of-29 effort for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
Down 14-7 at halftime, the Browns chipped into the Bengals lead behind a pair of third quarter field goals by Phil Dawson.
Running back Montario Hardesty, filling in for injured rookie Trent Richardson, punched in a one-yard touchdown to open the fourth quarter. Hardesty's score gave Cleveland a 20-14 lead.
After a Bengals field goal cut the lead in half, Weeden threw his second touchdown of the afternoon to give Cleveland a two-score lead. The scoring play was a three-yard pass to tight end Benjamin Watson.
Leading 27-17, the Browns would seal the victory when cornerback Sheldon Brown picked off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and returned the takeaway 19 yards for a touchdown.
The Cleveland defense picked off Dalton three times and forced a fumble from the Bengals' signal-caller.
Cleveland entered last Sunday's game having lost three one-possession games. Cleveland fell in the opener to Philadephia, 17-16, then lost at Cincinnati, 34-27. The youthful team also fell at Baltimore, 23-16. Last week, everything came together against the Bengals.
In Pat Shumur's second season at the helm of the Browns, he is trying to mesh together a team filled with young talent.
Richardson is relied on heavily for the Browns offense. He is the team's leading rusher and receiver. Richardson left the Cincinnati game in the first half with bruised ribs and is listed as day-to-day.
Before last Sunday, Richardson's 81 carries were 77 more than the next-most on the Browns roster. Richardson now has 95 carries for 340 yards and four scores, while Hardesty is second with 15 attempts. Richardson's 22 catches lead the team, but Weeden spreads the ball around. Eight different receivers have caught at least nine passes on the year.
Cleveland possesses one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL. Its defense ranks second in the AFC with 14 takeaways. The total ties for fourth-most in the NFL. Six players have combined to snare 10 interceptions, including four who have two apiece.
The Cleveland special teams are headlined by kicker Phil Dawson and returner Joshua Cribbs. Dawson has connected on all 12 field goal attempts, including four from the 50-yard range. He had three 50-plus boots at Baltimore (51, 50, 52). That effort tied the NFL record, and he has hit his last 18 kicks. Cribbs has a 15.4 average on 14 punt returns. He has ripped off a 60-yarder this year. Cribbs ranks first in the AFC and third in the league with a 31.3 average on 20 kickoff returns. He has a 74-yard return mixed in with his efforts.
*2012 Record: *1-5, Fourth in the AFC North.
*Head Coach: *Pat Shurmur, second season as Browns head coach (5-17 overall in the regular season).
*2012 NFL Rankings: *Offense – Overall, 25th (324.8); Rushing, T27th (83.2); Passing 16th (241.7) Defense – Overall, 30th (425.5); Rushing, 25th (131.3); Passing, 30th (294.2).
*2012 Leading Passer: *Brandon Weeden (129-231 comp., 1,519 yards, 55.8 pct., 7 TDs, 10 INTs, 68.1 rating).
*2012 Leading Rusher: *Trent Richardson (95 carries, 340 yards, 4 TDs).
*2012 Leading Receiver: *Trent Richardson (22 receptions, 186 yards, 1 TD).
2012 Leading Sacker: D'Qwell Jackson (3.0).
2012 Turnover Breakdown: 1 (T13th).
2012 NFL Draft Results: The Browns made the most noise during April's NFL Draft selecting running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first round. The duo has accounted for a majority of the Browns' offensive production this season and seems to be the future of the organization. In the second round, the Browns selected offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz. The California product has started all six games at right tackle for Cleveland. In the third round, the Browns chose defensive tackle John Hughes, and the 320-pound Hughes made his first NFL start last weekend. Cleveland has a total of 16 rookies on its roster.
*2011 Review: *Pat Shurmur's first season as an NFL head coach started out promising with the Browns winning two of their first three games. His first win came at Indianapolis on September 18, 27-19. Cleveland was 3-3 after six games, but struggled down the stretch to a 4-12 record, finishing fourth in the AFC North. After injury-plagued 2009 and 2010 seasons, inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson led the team in 2011 with 158 tackles. Quarterback Colt McCoy started the first 13 games of the season for the Browns was 265-of-463 for 2,733 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Last time in Playoffs: 2002 season. Lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 36-33, in the AFC Wild Card Round.
*Last time in Super Bowl: *Never qualified for Super Bowl.
*Super Bowl Championships: *None.
2011 Pro Bowl Selections: Joe Thomas OT.