INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts and Browns are meeting for the second consecutive year in Indianapolis.
The Colts will be playing a fourth home game in the last five outings. Indianapolis is coming off a difficult 35-9 loss to the New York Jets last Sunday.
Indianapolis has played exciting games to date at home. Each of the past three home games has been decided in the last minute.
Cleveland earned its first win last Sunday, besting divisional rival Cincinnati at home, 34-24.
The Browns visited Lucas Oil Stadium last September 18, earning a 27-19 victory in week two of the season. The eight-point verdict was somewhat symbolic of the series. Seven straight series meetings between the clubs have been decided by eight points or less.
The Colts have won five of the past six games between the franchises, including both games being spotlighted today.
Colts 13, Browns 6 – September 25, 2005 –Fans looking for an offensive shootout early in the 2005 season, would have to take their eyes elsewhere than the RCA Dome on this Sunday afternoon.
The Colts defense continued its dominant start to the 2005 season by keeping the Browns out of the end zone.
The Colts entered the game having held Baltimore (seven) and Jacksonville (three) to single digits, a streak they would extend after playing Cleveland.
It was year four of the Tony Dungy era in Indianapolis, and the club would go on to produce a dominant 14-2 regular-season record.
Cleveland entered the RCA Dome under new Head Coach Romeo Crennel, and he was trying to improve on the previous season's mark of 4-12. A logical game plan would be for the defensive-minded coach to milk time off the clock to try to upend the Colts. It nearly worked.
Indianapolis running back Edgerrin James got things started off for the Colts with a two-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
James capped off a seven-play, 66-yard drive with 4:11 remaining in the first quarter, a score that came after the Colts punted on their first possession and after forcing Cleveland to do so twice. It would stand as the only touchdown of the tightly-contested game.
The Browns got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter with a 40-yard field goal by kicker Phil Dawson. The 11-play, 53-yard drive consumed 5:58 off the clock.
Indianapolis tried to strike quickly after the Dawson field goal, but Manning's deep pass to Marvin Harrison was intercepted by Daylon McCutcheon. Cleveland was able to take almost five minutes off the clock before punting back to Indianapolis.
Leading 7-3, the Colts pushed their lead back to a touchdown with a 20-yard field goal by kicker Mike Vanderjagt with 3:14 left in the second quarter. The drive covered 84 yards on 10 plays. Indianapolis had a first-and-10 at the Cleveland 11, but was kept out of the end zone.
The teams traded punts before time expired with Cleveland having the ball at midfield.
Despite having nearly double the time of possession as the Colts in the first half (17:38-12:22), the Browns trailed 10-3 at intermission. They remained within striking defense of the potent Colts after holding the ball for 9:28 of the second quarter.
Vanderjagt added another field goal, this one from 23 yards out, on the Colts' first drive of the second half. It gave Indianapolis a two-score lead at 13-3, and the score came after a clock-eating, 7:53 drive which spanned 70 yards in 14 plays.
Cleveland then possessed the ball for the rest of the quarter and into the early part of the fourth before it scored. Dawson booted a 22-yard field goal to cut the lead to 13-6 with 14:09 left.
The teams would trade punts on their next possessions before the Colts took over at their own 33-yard line with 7:40 remaining.
Looking for a stop to give their offense one more shot, the Browns were unable to get the Colts offense off the field.
Indianapolis converted five first downs on the game's final drive. The Colts forced Cleveland to burn all three of its timeouts in using the entire 7:40 off the clock.
The Colts responded to Cleveland's blueprint by milking the clock with their last drive. The game was concluded in two hours and 36 minutes, one of the quickest games in the Colts' Indianapolis era.
With the win, the Colts became just the sixth team in the post World War II era to open the season by holding three straight opponents in single digits. The defense had given up just one touchdown through the first 12 quarters of the season.
James paced the offense with 108 yards on 27 carries and scored the game's lone touchdown. The 100-yard effort was the 42nd time James had reached that mark during his career.
Quarterback Peyton Manning was 19-of-23 for 228 yards. Even with that methodical performance, he became the second-fastest player in NFL history to reach 30,000 passing yards.
He did so in his 115th game, one outing more than Dan Marino (114).
Harrison caught six passes for 53 yards, and he and Manning became the leading quarterback-receiver duo in NFL history with 9,568 yards. The Manning-Harrison duo surpassed the 9,538 tandem yardage amassed by Jim Kelly and Andre Reed.
The defensive effort was led by defensive end Dwight Freeney, who produced his fourth career three-sack performance. It was then his 11th career multiple-sack game.
The Colts opened 3-0 under Dungy for the second time in four seasons (5-0, 2003). Indianapolis went on to win its first 13 outings, and the seven-point game with Cleveland stood as one of its closest wins during a year that produced the highest regular-season victory total in franchise history (tied again in 2009).
Colts 10, Browns 6 – November 30, 2008 –Where the Colts entered the 2005 game with the Browns with an undefeated record, it was anything but that when the teams met in adverse conditions in Cleveland.
On a cloudy, rainy day with a temperature of 36 degrees (wind chill of 27) and 15-mile an hour winds, the 7-4 Colts entered the lakefront stadium to face the 4-7 Browns.
It was another matchup of Dungy and Crennel, so one naturally could think points would be at a premium. Additionally, the team's last time in this venue rendered a 9-6 victory, one of the few games in the Manning era when the team failed to score a touchdown.
Indianapolis had started the 2008 season at 3-4 and had little room for error in the division. Tennessee was surging to a 10-0 start and had beaten the Colts five weeks earlier by 10 points. Any hopes for a seventh straight playoff bid were tight, almost as tight as the scores of the four games Indianapolis played before reaching Cleveland.
After falling at Tennessee, the Colts beat New England (18-15), Pittsburgh (24-20), Houston (33-27) and San Diego (23-20), with the outings against the Steelers and Chargers being on the road. The New England and San Diego games were prime-time battles, so the Colts were battling a geographic obstacle from the week before, too.
What happened in Cleveland followed form – a low-scoring game won by the Colts in a narrow fashion. A nail-biting November continued.
Just like the two previous meetings with the Browns, the Colts had to rely on their defense to earn this win.
The game did not start off well for the visitors as Colts running back Joseph Addai fumbled on the first play from scrimmage.
Starting from the Colts 47-yard line, the Browns got on the board with a 34-yard field goal by Dawson.
Indianapolis answered with a drive that ended with a 30-yard field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri. It was a 12-play, 65-yard march that took 7:06 off the clock.
In a ball-control game, the Browns added another field goal from Dawson (25 yards) on the next possession. The 16-play, 66-yard drive took 9:23 off the clock, but the Colts defense was able to keep Cleveland out of the end zone. The Browns snapped three plays inside the 10 before the field goal.
On the next possession, the Colts appeared primed to take their first lead of the afternoon, driving all the way down to the Browns' one-yard line.
However, Addai and Manning were stuffed on back-to-back plays, keeping the Browns lead at 6-3 heading into halftime.
The third quarter was all about missed opportunities for both teams.
Just like the offense did in the first half, the Colts turned the ball over on their first play of the second half when Manning was intercepted at his 49-yard line.
The Colts caught a break when Dawson missed a 34-yard field following the interception.
A chance to take advantage of the missed field goal went begging as Vinatieri could not convert a 46-yarder with 4:07 remaining in the third quarter.
The play of the game would come early in the fourth quarter.
With the Browns leading, 6-3, and at their 45 with 9:55 left, Freeney sacked and forced a fumble of Browns quarterback Derek Anderson.
Fellow defensive end Robert Mathis scooped up the fumble and rumbled 37 yards for a touchdown. It was the first-ever touchdown for Mathis at any level of the sport.
The Colts defense would not let up there, forcing a punt on the possession that followed the touchdown.
Cleveland had one more chance, taking over at its 30 with 1:50 left.
The drive would not move very far thanks to a Mathis sack and on a fourth-and-20 inside the last minute, Colts safety Antoine Bethea picked off Browns quarterback Ken Dorsey.
Indianapolis held Cleveland to 193 yards of total offense while sacking the Browns three times.
The interception preserved a 5-0 November for the Colts. Indianapolis won its first game since 2003 without scoring an offensive touchdown, dating back to its season-opening 9-6 win at Cleveland.
The five victories by three, four, six, three and four points made the Colts only the third NFL team to win five straight games by six or fewer points.
The Colts won the next four games to finish 12-4 after a 3-4 start, earning a seventh straight playoff bid. Indianapolis also extended its NFL record with a sixth straight season with 12 or more wins.
The close win also would be the fifth step in what eventually swelled into a league-record 23-game regular-season winning streak. The Colts won the first 14 games in 2009 to set the mark.
What became a record streak survived in white-knuckled fashion on this day against the Browns.