Colts Win Despite No Offensive Touchdowns for the First Time in Five Seasons
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Peyton Manning said it shouldn't have been quite so tough.
But Manning, the Colts' eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback, said what transpired at Cleveland Browns Stadium Sunday afternoon wasn't completely unexpected.
"I think this team defensively, especially, is much better than their record indicated," Manning said after the Colts' 10-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
"We knew it was going to be a grind."
Which is just what it was for the Colts offensively Sunday.
The Colts, who won for the fifth time in as many November games Sunday, produced just 215 total yards and 14 first downs, with Manning – a Pro Bowl selection each of the last six seasons – completing 15 of 21 passes for 125 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions.
The Browns, employing a strategy used against the Colts throughout the season, emphasized the run and short passes on offense, limiting the Colts to nine possessions, two of which came in the waning moments of each half.
Cleveland also played its safeties deep defensively, preventing big-play opunities.
"That was their plan," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "They played mostly two-deep (coverage), some four-deep. They did a lot of three-man rush and made us throw underneath – exactly the way they played us last time. It was good strategy. It really was."
Said Manning, "We just need to be more efficient. We need to score more than three points to win most games."
The Browns, who held Indianapolis to one touchdown in their previous meeting – a 13-6 Indianapolis victory in September of 2005 – also limited the Colts in the red zone.
The Colts drove inside the Browns 20 twice, with kicker Adam Vinatieri converting a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter. Cleveland then stopped a Manning sneak on 4th-and-goal from the one on Indianapolis' other trip inside the red zone late in the first half.
"We couldn't finish drives – couldn't find the continuity there," Manning said. "Somehow, we've got to get points down there – whether it's three, whether it's a touchdown, whatever. It's a shame to drive it all the way down there and come up with nothing."
For the game, the Colts converted 5 of 10 third downs, getting stopped twice on 3rd-and-1 – once on the goal line in the second quarter and once on their second-to-last drive.
"The game kind of went the way we thought it would," Dungy said. "We need to do better job in the red zone and a better job on our 3rd-and-1s."
Said Manning, "We have to be better there."
NO WAY, NO HOW: Dungy said he worried the Colts' game-clinching interception might have been ruled simultaneous possession, which would have given Cleveland a first down.
Safety Antoine Bethea said no way was that happening.
With just under a minute remaining, Browns reserve quarterback Ken Dorsey threw 30 yards downfield on 4th-and-20 from the Browns 35. The pass was intended for Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards, but Bethea wrestled it away for the Colts' fourth game-clinching interception this season.
"It was 'fight-to-the-end,'" Bethea said. "We were battling for it at the end, and I just had to tug it away from him."
Said Dungy, "You expect to knock that ball down or get it. I thought they might call simultaneous catch there for a minutes, but Antoine wrestled it away from him."
A LONG, LONG TIME: When Colts third-year running back Joseph Addai lost a fumble on the game's first play from scrimmage, it was the first lost fumble for the Colts since the regular-season opener.
In that game, Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs picked up a third-quarter fumble by Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown in a 29-13 Chicago victory.
On Sunday, Addai fumbled at the Colts 38 after a five-yard game, and Browns cornerback Eric Wright recovered to give Cleveland a first down at the Colts 47.
Ten plays later, the Browns took a 3-0 lead with a 34-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.
The fumble was Addai's first since the last regular-season game of his 2006 rookie season.
BRACKETT, DAWSON OUT: Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett sustained an ankle injury early in the second quarter.
Brackett, a starter since 2005 and the Colts' defensive captain, left the field on a cart and did not return.
Later in the second period, second-year veteran Keyunta Dawson left with a hamstring injury and did not return.
"Keyunta has a pulled hamstring muscle," Dungy said. "We don't know how severe it is. Gary has an ankle injury. I know he had X-Rays, but I have not heard."
SANDERS OUT: Bob Sanders missed a third consecutive game Sunday.
Sanders, a two-time Pro Bowl safety, was deactivated for the Colts' game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, the club announced shortly before kickoff. Sanders, the 2007 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year, had missed the last two games with a knee injury. He did not practice this past week.
The Colts' other inactives were:
Defensive back Brandon Foster, linebacker Buster Davis, center Jeff Saturday, tight end Jamie Petrowski, wide receiver Roy Hall, defensive tackle Daniel Muir and defensive end Curtis Johnson.
BULLITT, RICHARD START: Second-year safety Melvin Bullitt started for the eighth time this season in Sanders' place, and rookie center Jamey Richard started in place of Saturday.
HOW THEY SCORED
COLTS 03 00 00 07 – 10
BROWNS 03 03 00 00 – 06
BROWNS 3, COLTS 0
Phil Dawson 34 FG, 9:04 remaining first quarter. Drive: 10 plays, 30 yards, 5:32. Key play: Eric Wright recovers fumble by Colts running back Joseph Addai and returns it to Colts 47.
COLTS 3, BROWNS 3
Adam Vinatieri 30 FG, 1:58 remaining first quarter. Drive: 12 plays, 65 yards, 7:06. Key play: Reggie Wayne 14 pass from Peyton Manning on 1st-and-10 from Browns 49.
BROWNS 6, COLTS 3
Dawson 25 FG, 7:35 remaining second quarter. Drive: 16 plays, 66 yards, 9:23. Key play: Kellen Winslow 5 pass from Derek Anderson on 3rd-and-5 from Colts 30.
COLTS 10, BROWNS 6
Robert Mathis 37 fumble return (Vinatieri kick), 9:45 remaining fourth quarter.