Where was fullback Kevin McLeod?
After two straight seasons without a true lead-blocking fullback on the roster, the Browns kept McLeod for red-zone situations just like the two failed series Sunday. Unfortunately, he was on the Browns' game-day inactive list.
When asked of the decision not to keep McLeod on the active 45, Butch Davis had a curious response, stating that Steve Heiden, Aaron Shea and Darnell Sanders are all capable of playing the role of tight end, H-back or fullback. He also said all three "are capable of doing the same things McLeod can do."
So what is McLeod's role with the Browns? He was in the starting lineup at fullback in the preseason finale against the Falcons, and he was the lead blocker when William Green plunged in from 1-yard out. Green had a fine game with 86 yards and 21 carries against the Colts, but could not get to the goal line on two runs from the 1-yard line in the first quarter and on two runs from the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter.
"I want to be out there. Any true competitor wants to be out there," said McLeod. "(Lead blocking) is my forte. It is what got me here ... I was brought in here to block and to play special teams."
McLeod said the fact that he was signed late in training camp and did not have the experience of others on the team was a likely reason for his being inactive.
"I was disappointed, but I understand how it goes," said McLeod. "It's difficult to (get to 45 players) on game day ... I wanted to be out there, but I was still out there with the guys in spirit. I'll be ready when it is my turn."
The Browns had some creative play calling in the red zone, none better than the third-and-2 pass swing pass to Green in the fourth quarter. If not for a poor throw by Kelly Holcomb, Green would have scored easily to put the Browns ahead 10-3.
An advancing Colts defensive lineman made the throw a bit more difficult for Holcomb, but under no pressure he had plenty of time to wait for Green to clear the lineman or put more air under the throw and go over the defender.
The Browns found the man defense they expected on the play, running a pick play with Heiden and wide receiver Andre King at the goal line to clear the right side of the field for Green. Colts safety Idrees Bashir had the only chance to stop Green, but he would have had a tough time getting to the pylon before the back.
On the Browns first-and-goal inside the one in the opening quarter, they used a short-yardage lineup that saw Paul Zukauskas enter the game at right guard and Shaun O'Hara move from right guard to tight end for all three plays. The Browns had talked about possibly using a different right guard in short yardage during the preseason, but the assumption at that time was that Qasim Mitchell would fill that role.
CRAMPS KEEP WARREN OUT: The Browns could have used Gerard Warren and his potential to generate an interior pass rush on the Colts' game-winning drive.
Unfortunately, Warren was on the sidelines struggling with leg cramps. Those cramps have been a source of frustration for Warren for the last few months.
"I don't understand it," said Warren. "I'm in good shape and I wasn't feeling tired at all ... But my leg shot on me. The (trainers) were pushing the limits trying to get me back in to the game. It was very frustrating on the sideline."
The Browns have sent several players with ongoing problems with cramps to the
Cleveland Clinic for tests in the last few years, including Warren and Earl Little.
LINE REVIEW: Davis had high praise for the new-look left side of the Browns offensive line.
"Any time we don't give up a sack, I'll take it," said Davis.
Barry Stokes, who has taken over at left tackle for the injured Ross Verba, had some help from left guard Melvin Fowler and from running back William Green early in the game against Colts right defensive end Dwight Freeny. Overall, Stokes kept Freeny in check,
Davis raved about the athleticism Fowler showed in pulling to block for Green when the run game came alive in the second half. Fowler did struggle, however, on a few pass plays, most notably a 3rd-and-5 from the Colts' 49 on the Browns final offensive possession.
Fowler was beaten badly by Chad Bratzke, who pressured Holcomb up the middle, forcing a dump pass in the flat to Jamel White. Linebacker Jim Nelson was sitting on the play and dumped White for a 5-yard loss, forcing a punt and setting the stage for the Colts' game-winning drive.
BROWN ENCOURAGING: The play of Courtney Brown, who had the game's only sack and turned in an eye-opening play in every quarter, was the talk of the Browns locker room after the game.
"Without Courtney doing the things he did, (the Browns young linebackers) might not have the chance to do the things we did," said middle linebacker Andra Davis. "He was just outstanding."
In his first extended action since microfracture surgery on his knee, Brown played both right and defensive end on close to 60-percent of the snaps in a three-man rotation with Kenard Lang and Mark Word.
Like Word and Lang, Brown was credited with two quarterback pressures. His lone sack came as a left defensive end, working against Colts right tackle Ryan Diem. Brown was also a force in the run game, and also showed great instincts in diagnosing and blowing up a middle screen in the first quarter.
According to Davis, Brown claims he is now 100-percent, and the ability to change direction quickly while planting on the surgically repaired knee would indicate that to be true.