Mediocre showing catches up to Colts against Browns


The Indianapolis Colts got outplayed by the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. A year or two ago, that would have been an indictment. But no more.

It is possible for the Colts to be a good team and lose to Cleveland in 2020 because the Browns have performed extensive renovation of their foundation and are no longer one of the NFL’s patsies.

The Colts had their moments to shine, but there is little doubt the Browns were the guys who deserved the W, making the necessary defensive stops. The numbers read 32-23, but there were surely some highlights for the Colts.

Still, the post-mortem analysis leaves room for questions until the next game. In the NFL, a loss is often dissected more thoroughly than a frog in a science lab. Until the L is replaced with a W, everyone wants to know if this is a trend or an exception.

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The Colts are 3-2, and it is remarkable how much better 3-1 felt than 3-2 does.

After the game, coach Frank Reich spent most of his time explaining what went awry. This was not a blowout, and there were plenty of good things to discuss, but somehow, all attention was on the wrongs.

If you want a treat tastier than Tootsie Rolls on Halloween night, replay Isaiah Rodgers’ 101-yard kickoff return. Those jailbreak run-backs are so rare at such a long distance and so jaw-dropping, you can never get enough of watching the intricacies of how the holes open up and how the runner’s cuts are made.

Rodgers’ play was essentially the personification of a highlight. It was Indianapolis’ first take-it-to-the-house kickoff return in four years. Give the guy a game ball to display.

Still, if the Colts were going to stage a comeback — though the game just did not have that feel — receiver T.Y. Hilton was going to be in the middle of it. In the late going, it seemed every time quarterback Philip Rivers needed to hit an open guy, it was either tight end Trey Burton or Hilton.

Hilton caught six passes, and Burton caught five. Alas for the Colts, the Browns also caught two Rivers tosses, too. They are listed in a different category, those receptions called interceptions.

It was not the best day of Rivers’ career, one that ultimately will take him to the Hall of Fame, with two interceptions and zero touchdown passes. He was also nailed for a safety that hurt the Colts.

Regardless of whose fault that was, his, the collapsing offensive line, Reich’s play call, the two points were costly, though the Browns contributed energy to making it happen.

This seems like one of those seasons when Rivers is going to take abuse from outsiders unless he plays the perfect game. He completed 21 of 33 passing attempts for 243 yards, which isn’t bad. But he threw an interception that was run back for a touchdown, and that was a big ouch, too.

“It just wasn’t a good play,” Rivers said, which did not offer much insight into what happened.

The Colts seem primed to score more, and Rivers feels it, as well, but they are not running up touchdowns by the bushel.

“Little mistakes here and there,” Rivers said. “All throughout the game, the effect of those is what is keeping us from scoring a bunch of points. Who cares about stats? There is only one stat that matters, and that’s scoring more points.”

The prescription Dr. Reich will write for next week’s game may be a better cure-all than all the drugs combined President Donald Trump ingested to supposedly rid himself of the coronavirus over a weekend.

Next up for Indianapolis are the Cincinnati Bengals, and if that isn’t a potential get-well vaccine, the NFL doesn’t have one. The Bengals were crushed by the Baltimore Ravens 27-3 on Sunday and are 1-3-1.

The Bengals definitely seem like a bottom-five team, though of course the Colts’ other loss was to 1-4 Jacksonville, another bottom-five team.

One thing about football teams and military units is they pretty much try to keep marching forward. Rivers seemed mentally bruised by the Cleveland defeat, and while the next game in football is almost never as soon on the schedule as in baseball, it will come up on the Colts pretty quickly.

“Can’t sulk around too long,” Rivers said.

If Rivers throws five TDs against Cincinnati, everyone will love him all over again.

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