Browns’ late rally falls short again in 31-28 loss at Indy
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson is tired of answering the same old questions.
Quarterback DeShone Kizer thinks it’s time for a change-up, too.
After another slow start Sunday and another late charge, the Browns endured yet another postgame news conference explaining what went wrong.
“We have these performances in the fourth quarter. We’ve got to have those in the first and second quarters,” Kizer said after a 31-28 loss in Indianapolis. “We’ve got to win the first quarter. We’ve got to win the second quarter.”
The rookie quarterback hasn’t even been around for most of it.
Jackson, in his second season in Cleveland, is 1-18 overall and is 0-3 for the second consecutive season.
The Browns have lost 15 consecutive road games and 28 of their past 30 games, overall, both of which predate Jackson’s arrival.
Even on a rare day when the Browns entered the game as a road favorite, in part because the Colts were using an inexperienced quarterback, Cleveland still came up short.
It’s not just frustrating, it’s become infuriating.
“We’re tired of being short,” Jackson said. “Nobody’s down. We’ve got to make plays for him (Kizer). We just didn’t do it today.”
The Browns certainly had chances, but as usual, they didn’t do enough early to stay close and then wound up squandering too many opportunities.
Kizer was 22 of 47 for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran seven times for 44 yards and a touchdown.
But Kizer also was picked off twice by Rashaan Melvin in Colts territory. A third interception came on Kizer’s desperation heave toward midfield on the game’s final play.
And the defensive game plan, to try and limit Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton, didn’t work out too well, either. Hilton caught seven passes for 153 yards, scoring on a nifty 61-yard play when he made an overpursuing defender miss him on a hard cut.
“It’s disappointing,” Jackson said. “That’s a guy we targeted. We want to shut him down. We did not do that.”
The effort was there.
After Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett ran for two scores, he hooked up with Hilton and set up Frank Gore’s 4-yard touchdown run, the Browns fought back from a 28-7 first-half deficit.
Kizer’s 1-yard TD pass to David Njoku with 27 seconds left in the first half cut the deficit to two scores, and the Browns defense stymied Indy offense in the second half. The Colts managed just four first downs, 75 yards and one field goal in the final 30 minutes.
The inability to maintain that production in the second half frustrated Colts coach Chuck Pagano.
“You’ve got to be able to put teams away in this league or you’re going to be staring down what we were staring down,” he said after avoiding their first 0-3 start since 2011.
Kizer took advantage of Indy’s second-half struggles and nearly pulled off the comeback.
Jackson called all three of his team’s timeouts after the Colts got the ball at their 19-yard line with 9:18 to play.
The plan worked perfectly, and then Kizer made it look wise by taking the Browns 58 yards in five plays, capping the drive with an 11-yard TD pass to Kenny Britt with 6:56 left to make it 31-21.
Indy was forced to punt again after recovering the onside kick, and this time, Kizer led the Browns on an 11-play, 70-yard drive that ended with Kizer’s 1-yard TD run.
Again the Colts recovered the onside kick and again they went three-and-out, putting the Browns at their 9 with 23 seconds left.
By then, it was too late. Again.
“We’ve got to make plays for him (Kizer). We just didn’t do it today,” Jackson said. “T.Y. made the plays today. We didn’t make them.”