Strictly from an aesthetic point of view, the Indianapolis Colts’ 17-13 National Football League win over the Cleveland Browns wasn’t very attractive.
Indianapolis proved to be inconsistent both offensively and defensively during most of Sunday afternoon’s game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Still, a win is a win. And after the previous week’s 34-9 road loss to the New York Jets, the Colts needed some good vibes as they prepare for their upcoming road game with AFC South rival Tennessee.
The best news, though, came after the game from interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who confirmed that coach Chuck Pagano had been released from the Indiana University Simon Cancer Care Center earlier in the day.
Pagano, who was hospitalized three weeks ago after being diagnosed with leukemia, is now undergoing treatments at his Indianapolis-area home.
“Great news. Coach Pagano celebrated this win at home. He was at the house, released, and we’re really happy about that,” Arians said after the game.
“That [news] was probably as big as the win. He’s no longer in a hospital room so [the] treatments will go on from there.
“I’m sure he’s feeling great right now. Hopefully he didn’t get too daggone exhausted coaching from [his] bedroom and his [blood-cell] count didn’t go down. As long as his count stays up, he’s going to be in great shape.”
As for the game, most of the offense for the Colts was provided by a pair of rookies. Quarterback Andrew Luck scored on a pair of scrambles from 3 and 5 yards out in the first half. Luck also completed 16 of 29 passes for 186 yards. He was also sacked three times and fumbled once.
Running back Vick Ballard made the most of his second straight start in place of injured veteran Donald Brown (knee). Ballard ran 20 times for 84 yards, both career highs. His 26-yard rumble off left tackle on second-and-13 with 1:50 remaining in the game — the longest of his career as well as being the longest by the Colts this season — pretty much sealed the deal.
As for the defense, it was a pair of recently signed street free agents — Clifton Geathers and Lawrence Guy — who helped shore up a front line that has been hit hard by injuries in recent weeks.
Geathers, a second-year tackle from South Carolina, was unofficially credited with two tackles but played well. Guy, a former Arizona State defensive end who was signed off Green Bay’s practice squad, had just one stop but again provided quality work while he was in the game.
The Colts failed to sack Cleveland rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who wound up connecting on 25 of 41 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Weeden had scoring passes to second-year wide receiver Greg Little (14 yards) and rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon (33 yards).
Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson saw limited work, picking up just eight yards in eight carries. Richardson has been nursing a rib injury the last couple of weeks and tried to play during the first half of Sunday’s game wearing a flak jacket. Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur, though, opted to sit the former Alabama standout over the final two quarters.
Indianapolis scored on its opening possession of the game, driving 80 yards in 11 plays before Luck worked his way into the end zone. Getting points so early in the first half was important for the Colts, who have been slow starters through the first five games of the season.
After Cleveland had narrowed the margin to 7-6 on Weeden’s pass in the back of the end zone to Little and a botched extra point attempt, the Colts made it 14-6 on Luck’s second scoring run midway through the second quarter.
Both of the touchdowns came as a result of some good video review by the Indianapolis offensive coaching staff.
“I knew down in the red zone that [Cleveland] had a special coverage. They way they played it … if you broke out, [Luck] would score because it was a matchup man-to-man and everyone would have their backs turned as they tried to wall in a receiver,” Arians said later. “If [Luck] could get out [away from the pass rush], he’d score. It just so happened that it worked twice.”
The Browns made things interesting in the second half, limiting Indianapolis to a 38-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with 3:19 left in the third quarter. Cleveland had scored earlier in the third quarter on Weeden’s rollout and throwback to Gordon, who beat cornerback Jerraud Powers to the corner of the end zone.
The Colts nursed their four-point lead over the final quarter, although they received a scare when a wide-open Gordon dropped what looked to be a potential 41-yard touchdown pass with 6:45 remaining in the game. It appeared as the rookie had lost sight of the ball as he looked back into the stadium’s open roof.
As it stands now, however, Indianapolis improved to 3-3 overall. The Colts have already surpassed last season’s two wins with 10 games remaining on the schedule.
“We’re obviously excited about the win. To get to 3-3, be in the hunt now in the AFC with a bunch of other teams and start to get healthy hopefully [this] week,” Arians said. “[We’ll] see if we can take this [victory] on the road [this week against the Titans].
“[There were] a lot of mistakes that can be corrected, myself included, and we’ll go from there. But [we have a] pretty happy locker room to get to 3-3. That was our goal no matter what.”
As for the game itself, the veteran NFL assistant said that Indianapolis had its share of chances throughout the day to put additional points on the board offensively and to make plays defensively.
“Fourth quarter, we were close, couldn’t finish it. Defensively, we jumped out there and made a huge fourth-down stop [in the fourth quarter]. I thought we came out of the locker room [at the beginning of the game] pretty good,” Arians said.
“A couple of throws we’d like to have back. A couple of calls I’d like to have back. A timeout I’d like to have back maybe if I had gotten it off sooner. But other than that, I’m pretty pleased with everybody’s effort.”