INDIANAPOLIS -- Colt McCoy's efficient passing and his team's proficiency on third down proved to be the difference Sunday as the Cleveland Browns toppled the Colts, 27-19, at Lucas Oil Stadium.
McCoy completed 22-of-32 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions. The Browns converted on eight of their 16 third-down plays and held the ball for more than 34 minutes.
"When you look at it from a defensive standpoint, we just didn't get off the field enough on third down," Colts Coach Jim Caldwell said. "Also, conversely, offensively we didn't convert enough on third down."
The Colts were 4-of-14 on third-down conversions. In a season-opening loss at Houston, the Colts recorded a 1-of-9 mark on third down. Caldwell expects his club to persevere until any problems are fixed.
"That's the tough thing, obviously, about where we are," he said. "It's going to take some resolve, it's going to take some focus. I think our guys are up to the challenge, but we have to get that straightened away.
"Obviously, two weeks in a row not being able to convert on third down … that's a crucial down. That's where you make your money. We have to be better in that area."
The loss overshadowed a solid showing by the Colts' running game, which totaled 109 yards. Joseph Addai ran for 64 yards on 14 carries. Rookie Delone Carter added 46 yards on 11 attempts. Caldwell said he was encouraged by the improvement in a number of sectors.
"We did some things a little better, but that's not what we're measured by around here," the coach said. "We are measured by winning, and we failed to do so."
Colts quarterback Kerry Collins finished with 19-of-38 passing for 191 yards with one score and one interception. He led three first-half drives that resulted in field goals by Adam Vinatieri as he completed 9-of-14. He engineered another field goal drive in the third quarter and led the Colts to a late touchdown, hitting Dallas Clark with a six-yard scoring pass.
"I thought there were things we did better today," Collins said. "We ran the ball. We put together some drives, but we just didn't finish. There are some encouraging things for sure. Obviously (there were) some things we didn't do in the second half that didn't allow us to get in a position to win the game."
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Collins aimed a pass at Reggie Wayne, who slipped and fell, allowing Usama Young to intercept. Seven plays later, after a strong stand by the Colts' defense, Phil Dawson connected on a 20-yard field goal to extend Cleveland's lead to 17-12.
Late in the fourth quarter, Cleveland's Jabaal Sheard slammed into Collins, sacking him and forcing a fumble that the Browns' defensive lineman recovered. The Browns capitalized when Dawson hit a 23-yard field goal that put Cleveland up 27-12.
"The turnovers certainly make a huge difference," Caldwell said. "So, I think once again, we had a stretch there where we self-destructed in a couple situations."
However, the Colts coach wasn't unhappy with what he saw from Collins, who signed late in the preseason to replace the injured Peyton Manning. Collins directed the Colts' offense from the no-huddle system for the first time Sunday and appeared to have sound command.
"He operated it pretty well," Caldwell said. "He is still developing within the system. He did some things better."
Said Collins: "The operational things went smooth. I feel like I'm in the right spots most of the time. … I think I'm getting better all the time. And I think I'm getting more and more comfortable with this offense every day that I can work at it."
When Collins connected with Clark for the touchdown pass with 24 seconds remaining, the Colts pulled within eight points. However, Pat McAfee's onside kick was covered by Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs, effectively ending the game.
FIRST QUARTER (10:31 remaining)
Indianapolis took the opening kickoff and marched down the field on the strength of Kerry Collins' passing and Joseph Addai's running. Collins hit his first three passes and also benefited from a 34-yard interference penalty called on Joe Haden as he defended Pierre Garcon. When the drive bogged down at Cleveland's 21-yard line, Adam Vinatieri booted a 39-yard field goal. Colts 3, Browns 0
SECOND QUARTER (14:15 remaining)
A 10-play, 78-yard drive by the Colts brought another field goal by Vinatieri, this one from 27 yards. Rookie running back Delone Carter opened the march with an 18-yard gainer. Collins completed all three of his passes for 47 yards. The drive was earlier set up by a ferocious sack by Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, who slammed into Browns quarterback Colt McCoy for a 14-yard sack on third-and-2 at midfield. Freeney's big play forced McCoy to fumble, which Cleveland recovered, but also forced a punt. Colts 6, Browns 0
SECOND QUARTER (7:53 remaining)
The Browns put up their first points as McCoy led them on an 11-play, 55-yard march. McCoy completed 5-of-6 passes, including a 16-yarder to Evan Moore for the touchdown. Phil Dawson connected on the extra point. Joshua Cribbs set up Cleveland's drive with a 52-yard kickoff return. Browns 7, Colts 6
SECOND QUARTER (3:53 remaining)
Joe Lefeged gave the Colts nice field position with a 32-yard kickoff return. Then Collins completed a 12-yard pass to Addai on the first play from scrimmage. Later, Addai found space for a six-yard rush for a key first down. The end result was a 10-play, 34-yard drive that put the Colts ahead again when Vinatieri booted a 52-yard field goal.Colts 9, Browns 7
SECOND QUARTER (15 seconds remaining)
Cleveland used a couple of big plays to set up its second touchdown. Right after the 2-minute warning, McCoy hit Cribbs with a 25-yard pass. Two plays later, it was McCoy to Mohamed Massaquoi for 28 yards. That gave the Browns first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, and on his second try, running back Peyton Hillis scored over left tackle. Dawson hit the extra point, and Cleveland led at the half.Browns 14, Colts 9
THIRD QUARTER (6:52 remaining)
The Colts' defense did its part in setting up another score. Antonio Johnson walloped Hillis, causing a fumble, and Antoine Bethea recovered at the Indianapolis 40-yard line. Indy's offense went to work, with Addai running for 27 yards on three carries and Carter getting 12 on another. Vinatieri hit a 36-yard field goal, his fourth three-pointer of the game.Browns 14, Colts 12
FOURTH QUARTER (10:57 remaining)
Dawson hit a 20-yard field goal to extend Cleveland's lead, but it could have been worse for the Colts. Indy's defense turned in an impressive goal-line stand after the Browns had first down at the 4-yard line. Two runs by Montario Hardesty garnered just two yards and then McCoy, under pressure, threw an incompletion. Cleveland's drive was set up when Usama Young intercepted a Collins pass. Reggie Wayne, who was Collins' target on the play, slipped and fell.Browns 17, Colts 12
FOURTH QUARTER (3:55 remaining)
Joshua Cribbs returned a Pat McAfee punt 43 yards to set up a Cleveland touchdown. The Browns needed just three plays to punch it in from the Colts' 28-yard line. The scoring play was a 24-yard run by Hillis. Dawson connected on the extra point.Browns 24, Colts 12
FOURTH QUARTER (2:59 remaining)
Dawson hit a 23-yard field goal after a four-play, nine-yard drive. A big defensive play by the Browns made it possible. Jabaal Sheard sacked Collins, forcing the ball loose, and also recovered the fumble.Browns 27, Colts 12
FOURTH QUARTER (24 seconds remaining)
A 12-play, 83-yard drive by the Colts brought them within a touchdown and a two-point conversion of a tie. Collins threw a six-yard pass to Dallas Clark for the score. Vinatieri hit the extra point.Browns 27, Colts 19