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Just a few hours after their head coach, Chuck Pagano, was released from the hospital, the Indianapolis Colts (3-3) took the field and held on for a 17-13 home victory over the Cleveland Browns (1-6) on Sunday.
“He was at the house, and we’re really excited about that,” said interim coach Bruce Arians said Pagano, who is undergoing treatment for a form of adult leukemia. “That’s probably as big as the win today. … I’m sure he’s feeling great right now.”
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t have his best day throwing the football, as he tallied a mere 186 yards on 16 of 29 attempts and zero touchdown passes.
But he instead got the job done with his feet, rushing for two touchdowns and becoming the first Colts quarterback to do so since 1988.
Luck ran one in from three yards out on the game’s opening possession to cap off an 11 play, 80 yard drive, putting Indianapolis ahead 7-0 with 7:23 remaining in the first quarter.
Cleveland responded with a drive that was almost just as long the first time they touched the football – 78 yards on 16 plays. Receiver Greg Little made an acrobatic leaping touchdown catch toward the back of the end zone on a 14 yard pass from rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden to finish off the drive.
A botched hold on the extra point by punter and kick holder Reggie Hodges, however, caused the Browns to miss out on the PAT, keeping them behind at 7-6 with 14:01 left in the first half.
That one point would prove costly toward the end of the game, as it left the Browns in a position where they could not tie the game with a field goal.
A play action fake five yards from the goal line on the next possession allowed Luck to scamper into the end zone untouched, extending the Colts lead to 14-6.
Luck’s success on the ground translated to the rest of the team as well. Indianapolis totaled 148 rushing yards on the day. Vick Ballard did the majority of the workload with 84 yards on 20 carries.
Browns rookie receiver Josh Gordon caught a 33 yard strike to bring Cleveland back within one early in the third quarter, but it was a play about midway through the fourth quarter that will haunt him.
Weeden unleashed a perfectly thrown 41 yard ball to the end zone, which Gordon dropped as the sun peered through Lucas Oil Stadium’s open roof just at the point of arrival. Cleveland would have taken its first lead of the day, but instead failed to score for the rest of the game.
“He makes that catch nine times out of 10, so be it, it didn’t happen on this day, but I stay positive with him,” said Weeden. “He’s made a lot of big plays. He’s coming into his own and he’s becoming a really good player.”
Indianapolis tacked on a 38 yard field goal with only 3:19 left on the clock, and the defense stood its ground to seal the victory.
With the win, the Colts now have eclipsed last season’s total victory mark of two. They will hit the road and take on an AFC South rival next week in the Tennessee Titans (3-4), while the Browns will host the San Diego Chargers (3-3).
Image Courtesy of Indianapolis Colts