INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 3-2 on the year Sunday with their 32-23 loss to the Cleveland Browns in their 2020 Week 5 matchup at FirstEnergy Stadium.
In a game that featured several waves of momentum, the Colts would find themselves down 17, 27-10, early in the third quarter after a pick six by Browns safety Ronnie Harrison Jr.
But an Isaiah Rodgers kickoff return for touchdown, Bobby Okereke interception and Rodrigo Blankenship field goal would suddenly result in Indy trailing by just seven, 27-20 at the 3:58 mark of the third quarter.
Cleveland would seize the momentum from there, however, eventually coming out on top to secure a nine-point victory and snap Indianapolis' three-game win streak in the process.
"Tough loss on the road against a good football team," head coach Frank Reich told reporters after the game. "I give the Browns a lot of credit. They have good coaches and good players, and they played well.
"You lose a game like this, and we all share in it. Everyone shares in it," Reich continued. "I'm a little bit — I hate to say it — encouraged that we can make some of the mistakes we make and we are still in the game against a good football team on the road. That is the way I am viewing it. There are plenty of things we can do better and we will do better."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's loss to the Browns:
» PUT THE CLAMPS DOWN: The storyline heading into Sunday's game was the Browns' No. 1-ranked rushing attack against the Colts' No. 1-ranked defense. So with Indy stuffing the run in the early goings — the Browns had 14 rushing attempts for 38 yards (2.7 avg.) in the first two quarters — Cleveland would instead find its success through the air, as quarterback Baker Mayfield went into halftime having completed 19-of-28 passes for 228 yards with two touchdowns for a QB rating of 116.4. But Indy would, for the most part, put the clamps down from there on the defensive side of the ball; Mayfield had as many completions (two) as interceptions in the second half, as the Colts' defense held up its end of the bargain on the road against one of the AFC's top offenses. "This is the NFL. They are going to make plays. They get paid just like we do," said linebacker Anthony Walker, who had one of Indy's two interceptions on the day. "Sometimes, the ball does not bounce your way and we knew that if we kept fighting, we were going to get a couple of those plays to go our way. We were able to make a couple of those in the second half. Not enough to win the game, but proud of the way we played as a team. I feel like we beat ourselves a little bit. Obviously, they made some plays, but we beat ourselves a couple times and we cannot do that against great opponents."
» 'SPECIAL' ONCE AGAIN: Whether it's terrific coverage, blocked kicks or timely touchdowns, the Colts' special teams units have shown a knack for clutch plays so far through the first five games of the season. It was the latter on Sunday against the Browns, as rookie Isaiah Rodgers gave the Colts a much-needed spark when he logged a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown early in the third quarter, finding the end zone just after Cleveland seemed to have started to run away with the ballgame after the aforementioned pick-six by safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said entering the season that he was hoping to find ways to incorporate the lightning-fast Rodgers into some returning opportunities, and with terrific blocking downfield, coupled with the UMass product's blazing 4.28 40-yard dash speed that allowed him to pull away down the stretch, Rodgers was able to take advantage on Sunday. He became the sixth rookie in franchise history to log a kickoff return for a touchdown, and the first since Dominic Rhodes in 2001.
» OFF THE MARK: Entering Sunday's games, NFL teams were 277-90-5 (.751) all-time in games in which they logged two takeaways, had a kick return for a touchdown and led at some point in the ballgame. The Colts checked all three of those boxes against the Browns, but weren't able to come away with the victory. So what was missing? While Indy's offense got off to a solid start on Sunday, its inconsistent play the rest of the way, matched with a couple untimely turnovers and an avoidable safety, seemingly made the difference. The Colts had just 68 rushing yards and averaged 3.8 yards per carry on the day; they were 4-of-11 on third downs (36 percent) and scored a touchdown on just 1-of-4 red zone trips; they had the ball for 25:15 compared to 34:45 for the Browns and Rivers threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and he was also called for intentional grounding in the end zone, which resulted in a safety for Cleveland. It wasn't the effort the Colts' offense was hoping for against the league's 25th-ranked defense coming in. "There are certain points where I think that we are really gelling and coming off the ball. We are really playing 11 as one. There are other times where maybe just one guy here or there and we just do not execute," Colts center Ryan Kelly said. "Those, unfortunately, are the untimely plays that we are making when the defense needs us the most, when they get us the ball back. Not executing in the red zone has been such a burden for us right now. Not going down there and getting six is hurting us. That is obviously something we need to get better at. Look, we are 3-2. There is next week. It is a long season. We will be fine."
» RELATIVELY UNSCATHED: The Colts have had more than their fair share of serious injuries to this point of the season, as starting running back Marlon Mack and starting safety Malik Hooker have each been lost for the year due to ruptured Achilles, while wide receivers Parris Campbell (knee) and Michael Pittman Jr. (calf) and linebacker/key special teams contributor Matthew Adams (ankle) are all on injured reserve and considered to be out indefinitely. Starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin also missed two games with a non-football illness that required a procedure, while key tight end Trey Burton missed the first three weeks of the season with a calf injury. On Friday, Indy's injury woes increased when left tackle Anthony Castonzo (rib) and All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (groin), two of the Colts' more indispensable players, were ruled out of Sunday's game against the Browns. Indy greatly needed as injury-free a game as possible in this one, and that's basically what they got, barring any bumps and bruises that evolve into something more serious later this week. Safety Julian Blackmon (groin) and defensive tackle/end Denico Autry (ankle) were the only Colts players to battle injury situations throughout the game, and both eventually returned. Center Ryan Kelly also got rolled up on early in the second quarter, but stayed in the game and told reporters afterwards he's fine. While we'll wait for Reich's weekly Monday media conference call for any other updates, Indy finally seems to have been spared heading into this Sunday's Week 6 home matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, which is followed by the Colts' bye week.
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— The Colts held the Browns to a field goal on their opening drive. Indianapolis has not allowed an opening-drive touchdown in 17 straight games, which is the NFL's longest active streak.
— Isaiah Rodgers' 212 kickoff return yards were the third-most by a player in a single game in franchise history.
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Sunday's loss to the Browns, courtesy of Colts Communications.
Colts fans can catch the re-air of Sunday's Week 5 contest against the Cleveland Browns on WTTV4.2 this Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET presented by POWERHOME SOLAR.
Catch all the action at FirstEnergy Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts take on the Cleveland Browns in Week 5 of the 2020 season.