What’s Next for the Colts and the Browns

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Browns’ defense played admirably throughout Sunday’s contest, but their stellar play wasn’t enough to come away with the victory. The Browns held the lead the majority of the game, but would eventually lose in heartbreaking fashion to the Indianapolis Colts by the score of 25-24.

As a result of an Andrew Luck sack-fumble, which was recovered by Craig Robertson in the end zone, the Browns took an early lead by the score of 7-0. The Browns made life miserable for the Colts’ offense as Barkevious Mingo got pressure on Luck throughout the entire game and Joe Haden blanketed T.Y. Hilton through the first half.

Run Game vs Colts

The Browns also appeared to move the football much better on the ground on offense as center Ryan Seymour paved the way on multiple occasions for Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. While the ground game was the lone bright spot for the offense in the first half, the supplementary parts necessary for a cohesive offense were nonexistent for the Browns. Despite being in control the majority of the first half, the Browns failed to capitalize on multiple scoring opportunities.

The Browns were deep inside the red zone when Brian Hoyer threw an interception while targeting Jim Dray in the end zone. Hoyer failed to set his feet on multiple occasions, which caused him to miss on a number of throws. Hoyer’s most notable incompletion was when he missed a wide-open Taylor Gabriel. The nearest defender to Gabriel was within five yards. Had Hoyer completed the pass, it would’ve likely resulted in Gabriel’s second touchdown on the season. Additionally, Billy Cundiff’s struggles continued as he missed his fifth field goal in as many weeks.

Irrespective of the abovementioned-missed opportunities, the Browns were in great position to come away with the victory at the midpoint of the game. The Browns’ stifling defense, and ability to control the point of attack in the run game allowed them to walk into the locker room leading the Colts by the score of 14-7 at the half.

Hilton struggled mightily to break away from Haden in the first half, and his struggles continued at the commencement of the third quarter. Hilton caught a 6-yard pass from Luck when he was stripped of the football, which was subsequently recovered by Paul Kruger.

Justin Gilbert vs Colts

The Browns were unable to take advantage of the turnover as the offense went three-and-out. On the Colts following possession, Justin Gilbert collected his first- career interception and raced 23 yards a touchdown. Gilbert’s pick-six gave the Browns a 21-7 lead over the Colts. Mike Pettin lauded Gilbert for his performance after the game.

“I obviously need to put a shout out to Justin Gilbert. … For him to come off the sideline cold when K’Waun [Williams] got hurt and for him to play at a high level, I think that’s a great boost for his confidence. I thought the pick-six was a play that he missed an interception on a couple weeks ago on the same call and found it. …Very proud of Justin. It’s a tough week. I thought he had a great week of practice, and it showed in the game.”

Mingo and Kruger harassed Luck the entire afternoon, and were both able toPaul Kruger vs Colts

record one sack respectively. The unrelenting pressure forced Luck into his second interception of the day in the early goings of the fourth quarter as Jim Leonard picked him off. The Colts adjusted by stacking their wide receivers more consistently, which allowed Hilton a free release. They also began to run more bootleg action to buy Luck more time to throw.

Hilton certainly benefitted from this adjustment as he finished the game with 150 yards and two touchdowns after seemingly being shutout in the first half. Luck rebounded from his mistakes as he finished the game with 294 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.

With 3:46 left in the fourth quarter, and the Browns up by the score of 24-19, Luck led his team on an 11 play, 3:14 drive, capped off by a one-yard touchdown throw to Hilton. The touchdown to Hilton was the final score of the game, and gave the Colts the lead and the win by the score of 25-24.

The Browns’ offense converted just 14 first downs throughout the game, and only three in the second half. The lack of continuity on offense kept the Browns’ defense on the field entirely too long. When asked about the lack of production on offense, Pettine said,

“It was a game where we talked about having to play complimentary football. We were going to have to limit the possesions, and I don’t think we did. I don’t know what the total possession count ended up, but that’s too good of a team to put that quarterback out there that many attempts. We had way too many three-and-outs, way too many abbreviated drives on offense and just drives where we had chances to get points.”

Hoyer finished the game with just 140 yards and two interceptions which is hardly enough of an output from the quarterback position to win consistently in the NFL. Pettine spoke about Hoyer’s performance after the game.

 “He did not play well enough for us to win. We’re in a bottom line business. The entire team did not play well enough for us to win.”

Pettine and the Brown’s coaching staff will have much to ponder in preparation for the Cincinnati Bengals, including a quarterback change. The Browns are well aware that they will likely need to win the remainder of their games to have a shot at the playoffs, and they are certainly up to the challenge. Mike Pettine spoke about the season not being over despite the loss.

“…It’s a kick in the gut. It’s an opportunity that we let go. We know our margin for error is now zero, that we’ve got to win our last three or we’re done.”

With the loss to the Colts, the Browns drop to 7-6 but can revive their season with a win against Cincinnati. It will be interesting to see how this team responds as their current position provides the perfect litmus test for just how resilient Pettine’s bunch is.


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