A Capsule Look at Sunday's Colts-Browns Game
COLTS (7-4) vs. BROWNS (4-7)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
Colts – Tony Dungy, seventh season as Colts Head Coach (80-27, 87-32 including playoffs) and 12th season as NFL Head Coach (134-69, 143-78 including playoffs).
Browns – Romeo Crennel, fourth season as Browns Head Coach and NFL Head Coach (24-35).
Colts – 7-4, 2nd in AFC South.
Browns – 4-7, 3rd in AFC North.
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS
Colts – 2007.
Browns – 2002.
2008 NFL RANKINGS
Offense – Overall, T-16th (328.4 yards per game); Rushing, 32nd (78.9 ypg); Passing, 6th (249.5 ypg); Defense – Overall, T-18th (333.9 yards per game); Rushing, 25th (136.8 ypg); Passing, 12th (197.1 ypg).
Offense – Overall, 27th (282.7 yards per game); Rushing, 22nd (105.9 ypg); Passing, 27th (176.8 ypg); Defense – Overall, 27th (369.6 yards per game); Rushing, 27th (145.9 ypg); Passing, 20th (223.7 ypg).
Colts – Peyton Manning (266-424 completions, 2,823 yards, 62.7 pct., 19 TD, 10 INT, 87.2 passer rating).
Browns – Derek Anderson (126-257 completions, 1,505 yards, 49.0 pct., 9 TD, 8 INT, 66.0 passer rating); Brady Quinn (45-89 completions, 518 yards, 50.6 pct., 2 TD, 2 INT, 66.6 passer rating).
Colts – Joseph Addai (129 carries, 457 yards, 5 TD); Dominic Rhodes (97 carries, 359 yards, 3 TD).
Browns – Jamal Lewis (195 carries, 716 yards, 4 TD); Jerome Harrison (27 carries, 238 yards, 1 TD).
Colts – Reggie Wayne (58 receptions, 824 yards, 5 TD); Anthony Gonzalez (46 receptions, 568 yards, 3 TD); Dallas Clark (45 receptions, 489 yards, 3 TD); Marvin Harrison (45 receptions, 478 yards, 4 TD).
Browns – Braylon Edwards (40 receptions, 661 yards, 3 TD); Kellen Winslow (40 receptions, 413 yards, 3 TD).
Colts – Dwight Freeney (7), Robert Mathis (6.5).
Browns – Shaun Rogers (4.5).
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Colts – The Colts, after back-to-back double-digit road losses, have won four consecutive games – including two against AFC division leaders – to solidify their position in the AFC playoff chase. The Colts lost at Green Bay (34-14) and Tennessee (31-21) before beating New England (18-15) at home, then rallying from a 10-point deficit to beat Pittsburgh (24-20) two weeks ago. They beat Houston, 33-27, at home the week after Pittsburgh then won in San Diego, 23-20, this past Sunday.
Browns – The Chargers, after an 0-3 start, won three of four games to inch into the AFC playoff chase, but they since have lost another three of four games to slip nearly out of playoff contention. After a victory at Jacksonville moved them to 3-4, they lost home games to Baltimore and Denver before beating Buffalo and losing to Houston this past week.
QUOTES TO NOTE
"We expect another close game this week. You hope we can do some of the same things we've been doing, protecting the ball pretty well for the most part, we need to be good on third down, need to try to score touchdowns in the red zone, so a lot of basic, fundamental, Football 101 things that we have been doing well in our wins and haven't done well in our losses. That will be the key again this week if we can do those things well."
--- Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning
"Really, the big thing there is inconsistency. Generally, if you don't play the way you need to play, you're not able to win some games. And that's what we've done. We haven't played well enough. We've had some leads in the second half in a couple of those games and you would think you would be able to win them, but we haven't won them because we haven't made the plays."
--- Browns Head Coach Romeo Crennel
The Browns at times this season have performed as well as any team in the NFL.
The Browns, after a 10-6 season in which they missed the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, have lost three of their past four games to nearly slip from playoff contention. But Colts President Bill Polian cited injuries and uncertainty at the quarterback position as reasons for the troubles.
The second issue, Polian said, is one that will improve quickly with the maturation of second-year quarterback Brady Quinn.
"The more Brady Quinn plays," Polian said, "the better he's going to be. I don't have any doubt about that."
That process won't occur in the last five games of this season.
Quinn, a first-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft from Notre Dame, replaced 2007 Pro Bowl selection Derek Anderson as the Browns' starter early this month, but the Browns announced this week that Quinn will miss the rest of the season with a finger injury. Anderson will replace Quinn in the lineup Sunday.
With Quinn injured, and with cold, windy weather possible in Cleveland on the last weekend of November, Polian said he expects the Browns to feature veteran Jamal Lewis, who has rushed for 716 yards and four touchdowns on 195 carries.
Lewis has yet to have a 100-yard game this season, but he has started 11 of 11 games and has averaged 3.7 yards per carry.
"I think they're going to try to run the ball," Polian said. "That's their M.O. to begin with. Brady is very comfortable in that kind of situation. I don't know what the weather will be like. It always seems that it's not good when we go to Cleveland, but that's their identity. They do well when they run the ball and play good, conservative, solid, physical defense. I think that's what they'll try to play."
The Browns, after an 0-3 start, have split their last eight games, a stretch that not only includes a victory over 6-5 Buffalo and a 23-17 victory at 4-7 Jacksonville, but a 35-14 victory over the New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions. The Cleveland game is the Giants' lone loss this season.
"They're capable of playing very, very well," Polian said.
The Colts last played the Browns in 2005, when they beat Cleveland in the RCA Dome, 13-6, in Crennel's second game as the head coach. The Browns feature a 3-4 defensive scheme similar to the one used by New England, Pittsburgh and San Diego, teams the Colts have beaten during a four-game November winning streak that has moved them into the No. 5 seed in the AFC.
"They're capable of running the football," Polian said. "They, too, have a big front three and front seven. They're another 3-4 team, which in the end is probably a blessing in disguise because we've played it so much. They're a veteran defense. We have our hands full."
Three key head-to-heads . . .
• Colts center Jamey Richard versus Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers. Richard replaced three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday (calf) in the first half of a victory over San Diego this past Sunday, and Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy and President Bill Polian each said he fared well against one of the NFL's top nose tackles, Jamal Williams. Rogers, like Williams, is a dominant tackle and key to his team's 3-4 defensive scheme. Rogers, a Pro Bowl selection for Detroit in 2005 and 2006, signed with the Browns as a free agent this past offseason and leads Cleveland with 4.5 sacks.
• Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney versus Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas. A matchup of a team strength versus another team's strength, and a matchup of one of the NFL's best young offensive tackles versus one of its perennially best pass rushers. Thomas, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and quickly has developed into a solid, consistent player. Freeney, after missing the last seven games of last season with a foot injury, has started 10 of 11 games last season and has seven sacks this season, including four in a two-game stretch earlier this month.
• Colts kick and punt coverage teams versus Browns kick/punt returner Joshua Cribbs. The Colts this past week limited Chargers returner Darren Sproles to one punt return for four yards and to an average of 20.2 yards on five returns. This week, the Colts face another of the league's most dangerous returners. Cribbs, a four-year veteran, has returned five kickoffs for touchdowns in his career and one punt, having returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown against Baltimore this season. He is averaging 26.8 yards per kickoff return this season and 8.6 yards per punt return.
BROWNS IN REVIEW
The Browns, after missing the playoffs last season when the Tennessee Titans beat Indianapolis in the final regular-season game, started the season with postseason expectations, but lost their first three games against a difficult early-season schedule.
Following a 28-10 loss at defending NFC East champion Dallas, then lost 10-6 to defending AFC North champion Pittsburgh before a 28-10 loss at Baltimore.
They followed that with three victories in their next four games, a streak that moved them to 3-4 and into the AFC playoff picture. It was a streak that included an eight-point victory at Cincinnati and a 21-point home victory over the New York Giants, as well as a victory at Jacksonville, a playoff team last season. The lone loss in that stretch came at Washington, currently tied with Dallas for second in the NFC East at 7-4.
But Cleveland then lost three of its next four games, losing 10-point second-half leads at home to Baltimore and Denver before rallying to beat Buffalo by two points on the road. They then lost to Houston at home this past week to slip three games under .500 with five remaining.
The Browns never led in the loss to Houston, a team that hadn't won on the road in more than a year. Cleveland committed five turnovers and forced just two en route to a third consecutive home loss.
A major difference between the Browns this season and last is their performance at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns went 7-1 there last season en route to a 10-6 record, with the lone loss coming to Pittsburgh, 34-7, in the season opener. This season, the Browns have lost five of six games, including losses to Baltimore (37-27), Denver (34-30) and Houston (16-6) in the last three home games. Their lone home victory came on Monday, October 13, when they beat the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, 35-14. The Colts are 4-2 on the road this season, and three times – against Minnesota, Houston and Pittsburgh – they have rallied from double-digit road deficits to win.
The Browns and Colts have met 28 times, with 13 of the meetings taking place since the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984. The Browns lead the regular-season series, 13-11, and the teams have split four post-season games. The Colts have won six of the past seven meetings, including three consecutive games in Cleveland. The Colts lost to the Browns, 27-0, in the 1964 NFL Championship Game, then beat Cleveland, 34-0, in the 1968 NFL Championship Game. The Colts beat Cleveland, 20-3, in a 1971 AFC playoff game then lost to the Browns, 38-21, in a 1987 playoff game in Cleveland.
On September 25, 2005, the Colts beat the Browns, 13-6, at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis in Romeo Crennel's third game as the Browns' head coach. The victory was the third for the Colts in a franchise-record 13 consecutive victories to start the regular season. Quarterback Peyton Manning completed 19 of 23 passes for 228 yards and running back Edgerrin James rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Defensive end Dwight Freeney registered three sacks. James, Freeney and Manning all made the Pro Bowl that season.