Anyone interested in accentuating the positive, there is this: the Indianapolis Colts’ defense played well in Sunday’s 25-24 win at Cleveland.
The score was rather misleading. Seventeen of the Browns’ points were the result of Colts turnovers, 14 on a fumble-recovery touchdown and an interception-return TD.
Not having Davis raised concerns that Browns receiver Josh Gordon would take apart the Colts secondary. That didn’t happen. Gordon had just two catches for 15 yards.
It helps that Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer was off the mark on what could have been three-game changing plays. Each time, he overthrew an open receiver deep. But Hoyer missed throws most of the day, what he’s been doing for the past four games. He completed just 14-of-31 passes for 140 yards with two interceptions.
The Colts defense cracked only once, allowing a second-quarter touchdown drive culminating in Isaiah Crowell’s 9-yard scoring run. Other than that, the “D” was decent. Outside linebacker Erik Walden had his team-leading sixth sack. Safety Mike Adams had his league-leading seventh takeaway with an interception off a tipped ball in the end zone to snuff out a Browns scoring threat.
“Our defense rose to the challenge,” head coach Chuck Pagano said in quotes provided by the Colts. “They played ‘lights out.’”
Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman had a team-high nine tackles, as did former Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson in a triumphant return to where he called home from 2006 through last season.
The Colts (9-4) are on the brink of making the playoffs for the third consecutive postseason, something Jackson has never experienced in his NFL career.
“It was different,” Jackson said. “Just being on the field, once the whistle blew, it was like I was at a home game away from home. Just to hear the fans, the crowd and to see the guys who I have built relationships with over the years, it was a good feeling. It was like seeing a younger brother.”
And a win made the experience worthwhile.
“I knew we were going to get it,” Jackson said of Andrew Luck’s game-winning 1-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton with 32 seconds remaining. “It was just a matter of time of when we were going to. I’m glad I’m on (Luck’s) team this year. As a defensive player, as a player on his team, you always know when No. 12 is back there, you always have a chance of winning.”
The 137 net yards passing allowed was the second-lowest total for the Colts defense, which limited Jacksonville to 114 two weeks ago.
Walden has now doubled his previous season high for sacks. And his third-down tackle of Hoyer in the first quarter was a possession-ending sack.
“We were able to keep the big plays off,” Jackson said. “I think that was the difference in the ball game.”
The Browns had only one offensive play gaining more than 20 yards, a 27-yard pass to Travis Benjamin.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.