Hopes were high heading into this week's game against the Indianapolis Colts, but the Cleveland Browns ended up falling by a final score of 17-13. It was one of those games where despite it being a close contest, it was a very frustrating afternoon for Browns fans. The frustration started early on, when the Colts took their opening possession 11 plays for 80 yards, eating up nearly eight minutes of clock. The drive was capped off by a three-yard quarterback draw up the middle by Andrew Luck.
Facing a 7-0 deficit, the Browns responded with a long drive of their own -- in fact, their drive ended up being longer, and extended into the second quarter. Cleveland drove 16 plays for 90 yards, taking up over eight minutes of game clock. Their drive was capped off with a 14-yard touchdown pass from QB Brandon Weeden to WR Greg Little on third-and-goal. The pass initially bounced off of Little's hands, but he ended up securing the pass and getting one knee down before landing out of bounds.
The Browns were expecting to tie the game, but P Reggie Hodges botched the hold, preventing Phil Dawson from attempting the extra point. The Colts still maintained a 7-6 lead. Following that score, it was frustrating to see the Colts put together another long touchdown drive. This time, that went 76 yards on 14 plays, with the drive being capped off by a five-yard touchdown run by Luck. It was Luck's second touchdown run of the half, and the Colts expanded their lead to 14-6.
It was pretty clear from the get go that RB Trent Richardson was not himself, perhaps still battling the effects of the chest/rib injury he suffered a week ago. Cleveland failed to convert on a 3rd-and-1 run with Richardson and had to punt. The score stayed the same heading into the half.
On the Browns' opening possession of the second half, the Browns struck quick. After moving down the field, on a first down play, WR Josh Gordon faced one-on-one coverage on the outside. Weeden placed the ball perfectly on Gordon's outside, and he made a great catch for a 33-yard touchdown.
The Browns decided to kick the extra point instead of going for two, making it a 14-13 game. The defense continued having a difficult time forcing the Colts' offense off the field on their next drive. The Colts put together another drive that took up eight minutes of game clock. The Browns did get somewhat of a "win" in the sense that they held the Colts to a field goal, but it still gave the Colts a 17-13 lead. Instead of needing three points to tie the game the rest of the way (in the fourth quarter), the Browns needed a touchdown to get ahead.
In the fourth quarter, the Browns' defense finally started to force some punts. Then, mid-way through the fourth quarter, CB Sheldon Brown came around the edge and blindsided Luck for a strip, sack, and recovery.
The Browns had great field position at midfield. The first play? A nine-yard completion to Travis Benjamin. Weeden's second down pass fell incomplete. Then, on third-down, the play that left a sour feeling in everyone's stomachs happened. Weeden was being blitzed over the middle, and he threw a long pass over the middle. As the camera panned down field, we saw Gordon open again! That's when this happened:
Gordon had the ball bounce in and out of his hands. He was just entering the "sun" part of the field in the end zone; whether you use that excuse for him or not, it still prevented the Browns from taking their first lead of the game.
The cameras flashed to where new owner Jimmy Haslam was seated, and he threw his arms down in disgust. After that, head coach Pat Shurmur made a puzzling decision to punt the ball on 4th-and-1 from the 41 yard line with about six minutes to play. To make matters worse, Hodges' punt went out of bounds at the 20. It was a coffin corner fail at a time when a coffin corner punt isn't even necessary.
Still, the Browns' defense came through again and forced a punt with just over four minutes to play. Weeden got two first down completions in a row, but that was followed by a series of plays that made it 4th-and-6 from 39 yards away from the end zone. It would've been a 56-yard field goal attempt, a kick Dawson could probably make, had it been a three-point game. This time, with under two minutes to play, the Browns went for it. Weeden's pass to WR Josh Cooper over the middle fell incomplete. The Colts were able to run out the clock after that, with the game-sealing play coming after a missed tackle by Brown.
This is a tough loss to take. Although the Colts put together some really long drives, if the Browns don't have one of those two huge miscues (the botched hold, and the dropped touchdown), the outcome could have ended up in Cleveland's favor.