The Colts were sluggish offensively throughout the game, but were bailed out by their defense, particularly the pass-rushing duo of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, who teamed up for the game's decisive play in the fourth quarter with the Browns leading, 6-3.
With 9:55 left in the game and the Browns with the ball near midfield, Dwight Freeney knocked the ball from Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson's hands. Mathis scooped up the loose ball, broke a tackle and rambled 37 yards for a touchdown and a 10-6 lead that would hold up for the win.
Joseph Addai had to work for his 57 yards Sunday
AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
It's the fifth-straight win for the Colts, all of which have come by six points or less. Indianapolis improved to 8-4 on the season and will remain in first place in the AFC's wild-card chase.
With 1:07 left in the game and the Browns seeking a go-ahead score, Mathis again made his presence felt, driving tackle Kyle Shaffer into Anderson, then sacking the Cleveland QB and knocking him out of the game. Three plays later, Cleveland backup threw a game-sealing interception to Antoine Bethea.
Indianapolis needed the defense, as the offense was only able to generate three points. Peyton Manning threw two interceptions, and also fumbled at the goal line trying to score on a quarterback sneak in the second quarter. Joseph Addai also lost a fumble on the game's first play, leading to a Cleveland field goal, and Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal in the third quarter.
But the defense held up, shutting the Browns out for the final 37 minutes of the game after Phil Dawson's second field goal gave them a 6-3 lead midway through the second quarter. The rainy, windy conditions made it tough on both offenses, as the Browns managed just 193 yards of total offense, while the Colts generated only 215.
Peyton Manning hit on 15-of-21 passes, but two of those incompletions went to Browns defenders, and Manning only managed 125 yards on his 15 completions. The Colts rushed for 90 yards, with Joseph Addai picking up 57 on 15 carries and Dominic Rhodes adding 35 on 11 totes.
The Colts will look to improve their win streak to six games next week when they host the 1-10-1 Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium.