INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis may finally have the kind of defense that can complement its offense, and Andrew Luck likes it.
After throwing two touchdown passes and watching the Colts' suddenly dominant defense score its own TD in Saturday night's 27-6 victory over Cleveland, Luck explained the best part of the night for him was standing on the sideline as the Colts' defense went to work.
"They've been opportunistic, they've been getting their hands on balls," Luck said. "They were a pain in the butt to go against in practice, and it's fun to see them play this way out here."
When coach Chuck Pagano took the Colts job last year, he promised to improve the usually maligned defense. Now, the Colts are finally beginning to show what they can do.
Over the last two weeks, Indy has not allowed a touchdown. Before leaving early in the third quarter Saturday, the starting defense limited Cleveland (2-1) to four first downs and just three plays in Colts territory, one of those being a punt. They forced two turnovers, including Larry Asante's late 48-yard interception return for a score, and harassed Browns quarterbacks all night long.
Cleveland never even made it into the red zone.
"It's very exciting to see guys humming around, having fun and getting the job done at the same time," five-time Pro Bowler Robert Mathis said.
Saturday night's performance also was a drastic improvement over what Colts fans witnessed in this same venue two weeks ago, when Buffalo's rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel dinked-and-dunked their way to a 44-20 victory that drew the ire of Irsay.
Of course in that game, most of Indy's starters exited before the end of the first quarter.
This time, Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden had to contend with a very different lineup.
Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry made his preseason debut against the Browns, and linebacker Pat Angerer was on the physically unable to perform list against Buffalo. Having both back marked the first time this preseason the Colts had their entire starting unit on the field at the same time.
The result: Weeden went 12 of 25 for 105 yards just four days after coach Rob Chudzinski chose him as the starter for the regular season.
There were drops, turnovers and penalties. Trent Richardson carried seven times for 31 yards, but the rest of the Browns managed only 28 yards rushing.
Cleveland didn't even get on the scoreboard until Weeden took them on a 48-yard drive — against the Colts backups — that ended with Shayne Graham's 50-yard field goal late in the third quarter. And all this from a team that had beaten the Rams and Lions by a combined 51-25.