Normally, when a defense forces four turnovers and scores two touchdowns at home, you can expect a victory.
The Cleveland Browns did just that today, yet still lost to the Indianapolis Colts, 25-24 at First Energy Stadium to drop their record to 7-6, and the light showing the brown and orange’s playoff hopes in flickering at best.
Early in the week, coach Mike Pettine showed his faith in Brian Hoyer by having his remain as the starting quarterback, but once the game begin and Hoyer turned it over in the red zone after a four play drive in which the Browns had excellent field position (they took over at the Indy 46), Pettine backtracked.
The play calling was such that the coaching staff was trying to protect Hoyer from committing more errors.
If you are going to do that, then he should have just played Johnny Manziel.
Cleveland left points on the board all day long. In the first half, they started drives on their own 45, the Colts’ 46, and their own 35 yard lines, and scored no points.
The had just one scoring drive all day long, that late in the second quarter when the key play was a 27 yard toss to Travis Benjamin. That may sound good, but on the previous play, Hoyer missed a wide open Taylor Gabriel overthrowing him by 1on yards. An accurate throw there results in a touchdown.
That gives the Browns a 14-7 lead at halftime, the other score coming when Andrew Luck was sacked and fumbled, which was recovered in the end zone by Craig Robertson, who was all over the field today, for six points.
For the second straight week, the defense forced a turnover on the first drive of the second half, when Joe Haden forced a fumble which Paul Kruger recovered at the Indianapolis 38 yard line.
No points resulted, as the Colts forced a punt.
The defense, magnificent all day, took matters into their own hands again when rookie CB Justin Gilbert picked off Luck and raced 23 yards for a touchdown. That was as good as it got, a 21-7 Cleveland advantage.
Another interception early in the fourth quarter, this one by Jim Leonhard, who had a sack as well, give the Browns the ball on the Colts’ 23 yard line. A touchdown would have given the Browns a 28-19 lead with 12 minutes left.
The offense couldn’t move it again and Cleveland settled for a Billy Cundiff field goal keeping it a one possession game at 24-19.
Hoyer completed just 14 of 31 throws for 140 yards and two interceptions, the last on the penultimate play of the game, extinguishing any chance of the comeback win.
The defense gave Pettine every chance to win the game, the offense simply didn’t take advantage. Hoyer was struggling so much that it wouldn’t have been a surprise if Manziel would’ve started the second half, but the coach stuck to his guns.
However, he shot himself in the foot.
More on the defense, which seemed to be on the field the entire second half. Robertson and Leonhard were already mentioned, but Joe Haden and Buster Skrine were great today, and Barkevious Mingo deflected a pass and had a sack.
The way the entire unit played, they deserved to come away with the win.
The offense was simply not up to par with their teammates on the other side of the ball, nor was Cundiff, who missed another mid-range kick, this one from 40 yards.
The guess here is the Browns will have a new field goal kicker next week against the Bengals.
That will go along with their new quarterback, because if Pettine thinks about what’s best for his football team, he will give the nod to Manziel in the last home game.
Yes, the Browns are still in a race for the post-season, but they now need to win every game remaining on the schedule. They showed today they are capable of that, but they need the offense to help.
Hoyer played the first 11 games because he gave the Browns the best chance for success. We don’t think you can say that any more.