The Browns dropped to 2-1 on the preseason with an uninspiring 27-6 loss in Indianapolis on Saturday night.
As fun as the Browns starters were to watch during the team’s first two preseason games, Saturday night in Indianapolis was just the opposite. Through two and a half quarters Andrew Luck and the Colts outplayed the Browns starters to the tune of 17-6.
Weeden and Company couldn’t muster much offense against a Colts’ defense that finished in the bottom half of the league in scoring and yards in 2012. Weeden finished 12-25 for 105 yards in a performance that surely will bring the hoards of Browns fans back to earth, following his two stellar games to start the preseason.
The team started the game strong on their first drive, featuring Richardson on three runs for 22 yards and a ten yard swing pass where he made a man miss on his way to a first down. Richardson’s fourth carry was called back on a questionable Joe Thomas holding penalty that ended up killing the drive.
The rest of the first half the offense couldn’t get going. Weeden was forced to throw into coverage several times with little room for success on the throw. On one in particular, Weeden threw a dangerous, but brilliant ball to Little out wide who caught it on his back shoulder and turned up field for a 14 yard game. That would be the last first down for the Browns offense in the first half, going three and out in their last three possessions.Luck opened the game leading the Colts down the field for a 32 yard Vinatieri field goal after a 10 play, 46 yard drive. The Colts had success moving the ball throughout the first half, but the Browns defense made plays when they had to. The Browns defense forced a punt on the Colts’ second possession but were no match for Luck on the next as he marched the Colts into the end zone on an 8 play, 66 yard drive. After a Greg Little fumble in Browns territory, Luck had the Colts to the Cleveland four yard line when Paul Kruger forced an errant Luck throw that tipped off fullback Stanley Havili and was then hauled in one handed by newly anointed starting free safety Tashaun Gipson, tip toeing the sideline.
The rest of the first half was uneventful with two more punts from each team as neither were able to move the ball with much success. After a fourth straight three and out to start the second half, Luck capitalized on short field and took the Colts back to the end zone on a five play, 47 yard drive that was capped off by an 8 yard pass to T.Y. Hilton.
Down 17-3 in desperate need of some positive momentum, Weeden was able to lead the offense down the field for a 50 yard Shayne Graham field goal. On the drive the second year quarterback completed his first three passes before missing on four of his next five. While points were good to have, a touchdown drive would have gone a long way to erase the memories of a stale first half.
From that point on it was primarily backups on the field for both teams. The Colts continued to be the better team outgaining the Browns 364 to 270 and doubling up them up in first downs, 26 to 13.
Browns fans missed the chance to see Barkevious Mingo, Davone Bess, Chris Owens, and Jabal Sheard — all who missed the game due to injury and all who are are expected to play key roles this season.
Paul Kruger continues to impress and show the form you’d expect out of a top pass rusher from a Super Bowl champion. He was a monster on the field, getting constant pressure on Luck all night long. Kruger blew by his man on inside move in the first quarter to get to Luck and record the sack. He looked good in the run game as well, stretching out a zone handoff to Ballard and slamming him to the ground for the stop.
Trent Richardson looked like a guy fantasy owners around the country would be happy to have on their team. He ran hard between the tackles and looked slippery in the open field. The more success Trent has, the lesser the burden on Weeden. The coaching staff limited Trent to just 7 carries on the night, a conservative amount that should surely increase when the games start to count.
After the starters were nearly perfect through the first two games of the preseason, the “Dress Rehearsal” was a bit of a reality check for Coach Chud and the Browns. The Colts are a better team than both the Rams and Lions and proved a much tougher test on Saturday night.