Who in their right minds would have guessed a 39-38 come-from-behind victory from the Cleveland Browns? They defeated the Indianapolis Colts in improbable fashion, with some beneficial calls from the officials late. Let’s get to the full game recap.
The Browns received the ball first and got off to a lightning start on offense. After an incompletion by QB Deshaun Watson, RB Jerome Ford had a carry for 8 yards. On 3rd-and-2, he got the handoff again and took it to the house for a 69-yard touchdown run, giving Cleveland a 7-0 lead.
Would the defense work well with a rare lead to start things off? Not quite. Two defenders missed a tackle to allow a third down conversion, and then later on 3rd-and-7, DE Myles Garrett jumped offsides, but then stopped. The officials allowed the play to continue, and QB Gardner Minshew found WR Josh Downs wide open up the right sideline for a 59-yard touchdown pass, tying things up at 7-7.
Things on the Browns’ second drive didn’t go so smoothly. On second down, Watson couldn’t connect with RB Kareem Hunt on a screen pass. On 3rd-and-8, the ball was snapped as the play clock was heading to zero, and Watson rolled to his right and tried to hit WR Marquise Goodwin downfield, but it was intercepted by CB Julian Blackmon at the Colts’ 45 yard line. Adding salt to the wound, there was an illegal formation penalty on Cleveland, so it was a lose-lose situation even if they had converted.
The defense came up with a nice stop on their next drive: with the Colts facing a 3rd-and-1 at midfield, they stuffed RB Zack Moss for a loss of 3 yards to force a punt. On Indianapolis’ punt, though, the gunner downed the punt at the 3 yard line, catching it on the run before it could be a touchback. Cleveland went three-and-out, as they were hurt by a run that went for a loss of 4 yards on second down. The punt gave the ball to the Colts at their 43 yard line, which is where they started the previous drive.
Minshew got the offense going with a wheel route pass out of the backfield to RB Jonathan Taylor for a 19-yard gain. Indy kept chipping away, and then on 3rd-and-2 from the 17 yard line, Minshew kept the ball and S Grant Delpit took a bad angle, allowing the quarterback to slip inside and go for a touchdown to give the Colts a 14-7 lead.
Gardner Minshew just shook out everyone in Lucas Oil Stadium.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 22, 2023
The ugliness continued on the Browns’ next offensive drive. They faced a 3rd-and-7, and when Watson faced pressure, he rolled to his left and then tried to throw the ball back across the field. It was intercepted (but then reviewed and ruled incomplete). On the play, though, Watson was pushed down and stayed down for a bit with some type of injury. He walked off under his own power.
Minshew had the Colts on the move again until Myles Garrett struck, as the defensive end forced a fumble from behind and LB Anthony Walker recovered at the Colts’ 36 yard line.
To end the first quarter, Watson was under center. Hunt ran for 11 and 5 yards, and then Goodwin had a 17-yard reverse that took the Browns to the 3 yard line.
At the second quarter began, Watson headed back to the blue medical tent, and QB P.J. Walker entered the game. He handed off to Hunt to get half the yardage, setting up 2nd-and-goal from the 2 yard line. On the next play, Hunt took the snap from wildcat and punched it in himself for the touchdown to tie the game at 14-14.
The Colts’ offense got back on track on the next drive, making it look easy with completions of 11 and 10 yards, and a 21-yard run by Moss to get into field goal range. On 3rd-and-3, Minshew kept it again to move the chains — but a hold by the offensive line brought it back to a 3rd-and-13. They tried to run a screen pass, but Delpit darted up and hit them for a loss of 5 yards. K Matt Gay came on for a 60-yard field goal, but it was blocked by Garrett! CB Denzel Ward scooped up the football and returned it to the Colts’ 26 yard line.
Walker remained in at quarterback for Cleveland. Two runs by Ford led to a 3rd-and-9. Walker’s third down pass was behind WR Elijah Moore, so K Dustin Hopkins came on to attempt a 44-yard field goal. He hit it down the middle to re-give the Browns the lead at 17-14.
The Browns’ defense got the Colts into a quick 3rd-and-7, but the bunch formation confused the defense and Minshew found Downs wide open for a gain of 34 yards. That was followed by a 24-yard run by Taylor into the red zone. Minshew converted yet another third down, this time to WR Michael Pittman, to get in a goal-to-go situation. Minshew kept it himself again to the outside, this time fooling the team’s other safety in Juan Thornhill, to give the Colts the lead again 21-17 with four minute to go in the half.
Walker found TE David Njoku for a 26-yard catch over the middle on the next drive. A couple plays later, on 3rd-and-9, C Ethan Pocic was flagged for an illegal snap, setting them back to 3rd-and-14. Walker found Moore for a gain of 10 yards. Facing 4th-and-4 from the Colts’ 43 yard line at the two-minute warning, head coach Kevin Stefanski opted to send the punt unit out.
The Colts took over at the 11 yard line. On first down, DT Jordan Elliott knifed in for an immediate sack — a loss of six yards. Cleveland called a timeout, and on 2nd-and-16, Garrett lined up on the opposite side and had a strip sack in the end zone! The ball bounced around a bit, but LB Tony Fields recovered for the touchdown to put the Browns back on top 24-21 with 1:42 to go.
Two run plays by the Colts went no where, and the Browns burned their final two timeouts. On 3rd-and-13, the Minshew threw the ball into the turf with all the pressure the Browns brought. The clock stopped with 1:26, and Indianapolis came on to punt. WR Donovan Peoples-Jones took the ball to the 30 yard line, and Cleveland came out passing to try to get into field goal range. It worked, as Walker got four quick completions. Hopkins came on for a 54-yard field goal, and he drilled it to extend Cleveland’s lead to 27-21 at the half.
The Colts received the ball to begin the second half. After two runs were stopped, Garrett tipped Minshew’s third down pass high in the air. Sadly, no other defender could come down with it, but it still forced a punt. Cleveland would start things off at the 20 yard line, and the word on Watson was that Stefanski didn’t like the way he landed on his shoulder earlier and is keeping him out as a precaution.
The Browns’ offense went backwards on their opening possession — Hunt stuffed for a loss, an incomplete pass for WR Amari Cooper, and then a sack off of a heavy third down blitz. P Corey Bojorquez got off a nice 56-yard punt with no return, though, to force the Colts to be at the 33 yard line.
The Colts faced a 3rd-and-2 on the next drive, and Minshew turned it over again, this time with Ward coming back across the field to intercept a pass for Pittman! Ward returned it 20 yards to the Colts’ 42 yard line.
Cleveland’s offense only managed a 6-yard completion to Goodwin on their drive, but that was enough to set up another 54-yard field goal attempt for Hopkins. He just squeezed it inside the right upright to give the Browns a two-possession lead at 30-21 with 9:23 to go in the third quarter.
The Colts kept attacking, starting with a 20-yard completion to Downs, followed by a first-down run for Taylor into Cleveland territory. A couple plays later, the Colts faced a 3rd-and-4, and Taylor got the handoff and a slight push from behind to move the chains just outside the 20 yard line. A screen pass to Taylor took them to the 12 yard line. Taylor continued being the hot hand, with a 6-yard gain setting up 2nd-and-4 from the 5 yard line. He punched it in for the touchdown on the next carry, making it a 30-28 game with 5:11 remaining in the third quarter.
JT back in the end zone.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 22, 2023
Facing a 3rd-and-6 on the Browns’ next drive, Walker completed a pass to Njoku for a first down, but the defense was also charged with roughing the passer, tacking 15 more yards on to get the ball just past midfield. RB Pierre Strong took a pitch to pick up 8 yards. A couple plays later, on 3rd-and-2, Hunt got the handoff and picked up 1 yard. On 4th-and-1 at the 40 yard line, the offense stayed on the field. They ran the fake handoff to Hunt and then pitch to Ford, but Ford missed the catch, leading to a free ball and a loss of 9 yards for a turnover on downs. The frustrating thing is that it would have led to an easy first down with a clean catch.
On 3rd-and-8 for the Colts, Garrett was offsides again, leading to a free play as Minshew lobbed it up the left sideline for a 33-yard gain in the closing moments of the third quarter.
The Colts faced a 2nd-and-9 from the 15 yard line to begin the fourth quarter. They couldn’t get another first down, but Gay came on to kick a 27-yard field goal and give the Colts the lead at 31-30 with 14:09 to go.
The Browns’ next drive began with a fleaflicker that turned into a tight end screen to Njoku to gain 17 yards. Hunt picked up 5 yards on the next play, but then a 1-yard loss by Strong set up 3rd-and-6. Walker finally got Cooper his first catch of the game, good for 13 yards and a first down. The pitch play to Ford on the next play went for a loss of 6 yards, burying them back to 2nd-and-16. They couldn’t convert, as Walker lofted it toward the end zone on third down and it was intercepted. The saving grace was that it was down at the 2 yard line, giving Cleveland’s defense a chance to try to make a play.
Ball went up, Rodney came down with it.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 22, 2023
Moss got two carries to set up 3rd-and-6. The give was to Moss on third down, and the defense stuffed him to force a punt. Peoples-Jones fair caught the punt at the Browns’ 43 yard line.
The Browns’ next drive started with a 3-yard run by Walker. WR Elijah Moore caught a screen pass that went for 10 yard and a first down, into Indianapolis territory. With Ford now hobbled with an ankle injury, Strong got the next handoff for 6 yards. He was hit for a loss of 3 yards on the next play, though, setting up 3rd-and-7. Walker’s third down pass sailed, and that forced Hopkins to try to be extended as he came on for a 58-yard field goal attempt, and he drilled it again! That put the Browns ahead 33-31 with 6:33 to go.
The feast or famine for the defense continued on the next drive, unfortunately. On 2nd-and-9, Minshew threw a short pass over the middle to Pittman, and then Newsome missed the tackle, leading to a 75-yard touchdown pass and the Colts being ahead 38-33 with 5:38 remaining.
Now the stakes were changed for Walker and the offense, because unlike other moments in the past two games, he needed a touchdown drive, not just a field goal. They faced an immediate 3rd-and-9, and Walker faced pressure and was sacked. Cleveland had to punt it away and hope for the defense to get the ball back.
The Colts began at the 32 yard line with 3:39 to go. Two straight handoffs to Taylor went for no gain, and the Browns burned timeouts after each play. A false start set them back to 3rd-and-15. The Colts went empty, and Minshew swung a pass in the flat to get half the yardage and then punt.
The Browns’ last gasp would begin at the 19 yard line with 2:35 remaining. Two straight incompletions led to 3rd-and-10. Walker then threaded the needle to Moore up the right sideline, picking up 30 yards! A 13-yard burst by Strong got the ball down to the 37 yard line heading to the two-minute warning.
M RE football to play!— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 22, 2023
PJ threading the needle pic.twitter.com/csWP1HmDan
A 17-yard completion to Peoples-Jones got the Browns to the 20 yard line. Strong got a handoff on the next play for a loss of 2 yards, though. On 2nd-and-12, Walker found Cooper for 8 yards to set up 3rd-and-4 with 0:47 (the Browns burned their final timeout). On third down, Walker had a rusher in his face and fumbled as he tried to throw. The game appeared to be over, but after a lengthy discussion, illegal contact was called on the defense, giving the Browns new life — 1st-and-goal at the 8 yard line with 0:38 left.
On first down, Walker’s throw for Peoples-Jones was way out of the end zone, but the officials flagged the defense for pass interference and placed the ball at the 1 yard line with 0:33 left. On 1st-and-goal from the 1, Walker tried to hit Njoku in double coverage, but the defense jarred it loose for an incompletion. On 2nd-and-goal, the shuffle pass to Njoku hit him in the facemask for an incompletion. On 3rd-and-goal, Walker was in Shotgun and couldn’t find anyone, throwing it away. On 4th-and-goal for the game, the Browns lined up tight. Hunt got the handoff and just barely crossed the goal line for the touchdown!
That put Cleveland ahead 39-38, but their two-point try was no good. The Colts still only needed a field goal, so their work wasn’t done with 0:15 left. Hopkins kicked the ball to the end zone for a touchback. The defense nearly picked off Minshew’s first pass, as the clock got down to nine seconds. On second down, Minshew had a fumble forced by DE Za’Darius Smith, and Okoronkwo recovered with two seconds to go and seal the victory!
Up next, the Browns travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks.
- QB Deshaun Watson: 1-of-5 for 5 yards, 1 INT.
- QB P.J. Walker: 15-of-32 for 178 yards, 1 INT.
- RB Jerome Ford: 11 carries, 74 yards, 1 TD.
- WR Amari Cooper: 2 catches, 22 yards.
- TE David Njoku: 5 catches, 54 yards.
- DE Myles Garrett: 9 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 blocked field goal.
- The Browns’ defense came in allowing 200 yards of offense per game, but the Colts had 456 yards of offense.
- On the flip side, Cleveland came in 30th in forcing turnovers, and they generated four turnovers and blocked a field goal, which led to half their points.
- The officials really did bail out the Browns at the end, which is the second week in a row it’s happened.