Sunday’s high-scoring matchup against the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns had fans from both teams on the edges of their seats. Ultimately, it was Cleveland who pulled out the one-point victory, 39-38, late in the fourth quarter. With their second straight loss, Indianapolis now falls to 3-4 on the season.
STRONG PERFROMANCE FOR COLTS’ OFFENSE NOT ENOUGH TO OVERCOME BROWNS’ DEFENSE
Entering Sunday, Cleveland’s defense was the NFL’s No. 1 ranked unit, and the Colts managed to have by far their best offensive showing of the season. In total, Indianapolis’ offense scored 38 points, despite committing four turnovers. That’s really been the story for the Colts over the last two games, and it’s certainly been costly when looking at the outcome for both contests. Quarterback Gardner Minshew committed three more turnovers Sunday, which led to 17 total points for the Browns that included a defensive touchdown before the end of the first half. Defensive end Myles Garrett wreaked havoc on Minshew and co. for much of the game, which included two sacks, two forced fumbles, nine total tackles (seven solo), one tackle for loss and a blocked field goal.
Yes, credit certainly needs to be given where it’s due. Minshew bounced back in a major way for the Colts with his performance the rest of the way. In total, Minshew threw for 305 yards and scored four total touchdowns, including two on the ground, against the league’s top-ranked defense. At the same time, the costly turnovers cannot be ignored and must be acknowledged as well. Indianapolis’ rushing attack was extremely productive, as they outgained Cleveland in total rushing yards 168 to 150. Both Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss had really strong performances individually. Taylor, looking like his old self, had a season-high 120 all-purpose yards and a rushing touchdown. Moss, meanwhile, had 62 all-purpose yards.
Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs made multiple plays to help keep the Colts in the game as well. Both receivers were big time for Indianapolis’ offense on Sunday. Pittman Jr. had 82 receiving yards and a touchdown, and the rookie Downs, who has been fantastic for Indy’s offense over the course of the season, set a career-high in receiving yards with 125 while also scoring another touchdown for a second straight week.
In total, the Colts’ offense amassed 456 yards as an offense and scored 38 points — by far their best performance this season in both categories. In the end, though, the performances from each of these players and the Colts’ offense as a whole wasn’t enough to give Indianapolis its fourth win on the season.
COLTS’ DEFENSE DOES ALL IT CAN TO KEEP THEMSELVES A CHANCE AGAINST TOUGH BROWNS’ OFFENSE
Indianapolis’ defense deserves a lot of credit for their overall performance against a tough Cleveland offense. In total, Indy’s defense allowed 316 total yards of offense to quarterback PJ Walker and co. Even without some of their best defensive players, including defensive tackle Grover Stewart, who was suspended for six games for violating the NFL’s PED policy, and cornerback JuJu Brents, who left the game in the first half with a quad injury, the Colts’ defense made a ton of plays to help keep themselves in the game.
Both Julian Blackmon and Rodney Thomas II had interceptions, and Kenny Moore and Dayo Odeyingbo combined for two sacks on the afternoon. Walker was less-than-spectacular in relief of Deshaun Watson, who left the game early on in the first quarter and did not return. Walker threw for just 178 yards and an interception. However, the third-string quarterback, in Walker, helped drive Cleveland’s offense 80 yards, which led to the go-ahead touchdown from running back Kareem Hunt on 4th and goal from the one-yard line. Yes, the final two penalties against Colts’ cornerback Darrell Baker Jr. may be worth calling into question, but Indianapolis’ defense had a chance to come up with a stop before the Browns managed to get in the red zone and came up short.
Turnovers, as mentioned above, certainly didn’t do Indianapolis’ defense any favors by having them back on the field in sudden changes of possession. Again, credit should be given where it’s due. As a whole, if you’re a Colts fan, you’d have to like what you saw defensively. The running game wasn’t as nearly efficient for the Browns after Jerome Ford’s 70-plus yard touchdown run to open the game, and not a single one of Cleveland’s receivers managed to surpass the 100-yard mark. As unfortunate as a result as Sunday’s game was for the Colts, I think it’s more than fair to say that, up until the very end, their defense did all it could to try and help secure a fourth win over a really tough opponent.