CLEVELAND, OH – Thanks to an errant Philip Rivers incompletion from his own end zone, that resulted in an intentional grounding penalty—an ultimately a safety—the Cleveland Browns grinded out a tough 32-23 win over the visiting Indianapolis Colts.
In a marquee matchup between two of the AFC’s 3-1 hottest teams, with the Colts boasting the league’s top defense vs. the Browns’ top-rated rushing attack, it was a classic matchup of strength vs. strength that went the way of Cleveland in front of 12,000 raucous fans at FirstEnergy Stadium.
With the win, Cleveland improved to 4-1 for the first time since 1994—my senior year at Cleveland Heights High—when they were last coached by Bill Belichick and finished the year in going 11-5, and the fourth time since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 when they won four of their first five games in 1971 and 1979.
The Browns would make the playoffs in 1971 and 1994. If that’s not a good sign of things to come, then I don’t know what else will.
Much has been made about the Browns quality of competition in beating the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys in the fact that following their 38-6 blowout in Baltimore that the Browns haven’t played anyone.
In beating the Colts, that narrative can now officially be put to rest.
Thanks to a Myles Garrett pressure on the forementioned Rivers in the endzone, causing him to throw it away, the Browns would be awarded two points for a safety due to a penalty for intentional grounding.
The safety, along with a 46-yard field goal from the once-maligned placekicker, Cody Parkey would ultimately seal the Browns fourth straight win.
In terms of the game, Cleveland was able to rush for 124 yards against the Colts, with Baker Mayfield once again playing complimentary football in going 21-of-37 for 247 yards and two touchdowns. However, in the second half, the Colts made some second-half adjustments and were able to force two interceptions and sack him four times.
With Nick Chubb out, Kareem Hunt continued his strong play as the featured tailback in rushing for 72 yards on 22 carries and also catch one of Mayfield’s two touchdowns. WR Rashard Higgins—a long-time safety valve for Mayfield, playing in place of Hodge, caught his first TD of the season.
After a 47-yard pick-six by Ronnie Harrison Jr made it 27-10 in favor of Cleveland, the Colts cut the Browns lead to 27-20 thanks to a 101-yard kickoff return and a 37-yard field goal by rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship.
Leading 29-20 following the Rivers safety, Blankenship added a 25-yard field goal to make it 29-23, before Parkey’s game-clincher with 21 seconds left.
A longtime nemesis of the Browns, from his time in San Diego and Los Angeles, Rivers finished 21-33 for 243 yards and two interceptions.