Luck leads late drive, Colts beat Browns 25-24
CLEVELAND (AP) — Their backs up against the end zone where Browns fans were doing all they could to make things harder for them, the Indianapolis Colts were in a bind.
Down by five points and 90 yards from a go-ahead touchdown, this was no time to blink.
Andrew Luck wouldn’t let them.
“I’m glad I’m on his team this year,” said Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who spent his first eight seasons in Cleveland. “As a player on his team, you always know when No. 12 is back there, you always have a chance of winning.”
Luck threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton with 32 seconds left as the Colts rallied for a 25-24 win on Sunday over the Cleveland Browns, who had their playoff hopes damaged and could be on the verge of benching quarterback Brian Hoyer for rookie Johnny Manziel.
While the Browns (7-6) contemplate another change, the Colts (9-4) are glad they’ve got Luck.
After making uncharacteristic mistakes, two that gave the Browns defensive touchdowns, Luck got it together just in time to rescue his team.
“Just glad we won,” said Luck, who brought the Colts back from a 21-7 deficit in the third quarter. “I had some real bonehead mistakes, two touchdowns on my account, against us. I can’t do that. It feels good to win on the road, in this fashion, against a very good team. A big team victory. We made enough plays when it mattered.”
With the Browns leading 24-19, the Colts took over at their own 10 with 3:46 left. On first down, Luck was sacked by Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who had the best game of his two-year NFL career, for a four-yard loss. Luck got seven back with a pass on second down and facing a third-and-12, rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief made a lunging catch to help Luck.
Then, the Browns pitched in as cornerback Buster Skrine was called for interference for grabbing tight end Dwayne Allen, a 35-yard penalty.
Luck drove the Colts to Cleveland’s 3, where they faced a fourth-and-1 with 44 seconds left. Coach Chuck Pagano risked a run, and Daniel “Boom” Herron, who was stopped for no gain on third down, made it work by spinning forward after being stopped at the line of scrimmage and keeping the drive alive.
“It was a huge play,” Herron said. “It wasn’t all me, we do everything as a team. I couldn’t have done it without the line. It was ugly but it all worked out for us and we got the first down.”
Luck took it from there, hitting Hilton, who finished with 10 catches for 150 yards and two TDs.
“We’ve been on the road so many times that it doesn’t even matter to us anymore,” Hilton said.
Here are five other things we learned as the Colts moved closer to wrapping up the AFC South title:
HOYER’S DUD: Hoyer may have made his final start for the Browns.
Coach Mike Pettine said he did not consider switching to Manziel during the game, and that it was too early to discuss who will start next Sunday at home against Cincinnati. Hoyer went 14 of 31 for 140 yards with two interceptions. He overthrew, underthrew and couldn’t get Cleveland’s offense going.
“He did not play well enough for us to win,” Pettine said.
BROKEN RECORD: Luck passed for 294 yards, 208 after halftime. He has 12,501 career yards, the most for any player in his first three seasons. Peyton Manning had the previous record with 12,287.
DEFENSE DOESN’T REST: Cleveland’s defense stifled the NFL’s top-rated offense until the final minutes.
The Browns pressured Luck into mistakes. Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown and linebacker Paul Kruger knocked the ball away from Indy’s QB before linebacker Craig Robertson pounced on it for a TD.
“We knew we had to make some plays and we did,” said safety Jim Leonhard, who had six tackles, a sack and interception. “We were fighting and fighting and fighting, and we couldn’t quite do it for 60 minutes.”
WAYNE’S WORLD: Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne didn’t make his first — and only — catch until early in the fourth quarter. Wayne had caught at least three passes in an NFL record 82 straight games. Wayne also tied Manning for the most games played in team history (208), and matched Manning for the most wins (141).
CUNDIFF’S WOES: Browns kicker Billy Cundiff was off target again, missing a field goal for the fifth straight game. He was wide right on a 40-yarder in the first half. The Browns had two kickers in for workouts last week and it’s possible the team could decide to release Cundiff.