Colts get ground game on track, beat Browns 17-13
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — On the day Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano was released from the hospital, the Colts started playing his brand of football.
They ran the ball effectively, controlled the clock, stopped Cleveland cold and walked away with a 17-13 victory. It doesn't get better than that.
"(Interim coach) Bruce (Arians) said instead of passing the ball on third down, we were going to run it on third down this week," rookie running back Vick Ballard said. "We went with the run this week, and it turned out nice for us."
Pagano couldn't have come up with a more perfect script had he done it himself.
The Colts' head coach has missed the last three games after being diagnosed with a form of leukemia. He had been hospitalized since Sept. 26 so he could undergo treatment, but Sunday morning, the doctors gave him some surprising news — allowing him to head home where he is expected to stay for the duration of the treatment.
Pagano watched the game on television from home, and Arians intimated he could almost hear the cheers coming from the Pagano home.
There was plenty to celebrate.
Indy's third home win in four tries this season surpassed last season's win total. They reached .500 for the third time this season and the second since Arians was promoted to interim coach. And for the first time this season, Andrew Luck didn't need to engineer a last-minute scoring drive to win.
Heck, he barely needed his strong arm in the season's first head-to-head matchup between starting quarterbacks. Luck scored on touchdown runs of 3 and 5 yards in the first half, becoming the first Colts' quarterback to achieve that feat since Ricky Turner on Dec. 4, 1988 against Miami. The only other player on the Colts' short list is Bert Jones, who ran for two scores on Oct. 20, 1974 against the Jets.
But it fit with the plan as Indy (3-3) finished with a season-high 148 yards rushing.
"It's nice to see a little pound, some first downs, two runs in a row and three runs in a row and get those first downs," Luck said. "It makes life a little easier as a quarterback."
If Brandon Weeden didn't' understand before, he certainly does now.
While Luck finished 16 of 29 for 186 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, Weeden, the Browns rookie, went 25 of 41 for 264 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.
The problem: He didn't get enough help.
Punter Reggie Hodges dropped the ball on an extra-point attempt, the defense struggled to stop Indy at critical moments and Josh Gordon dropped a sure touchdown that would have given the Browns the lead with 6:38 to go.
Plus, the Browns (1-6) managed only 55 yards rushing, a season-best for the Colts defense.
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