(TSX / STATS) — INDIANAPOLIS — While the Indianapolis Colts eagerly wait for quarterback Andrew Luck to return to the playing field after January shoulder surgery, the franchise will rely on athletic yet relatively untested backup Jacoby Brissett to produce victories.
Along with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, Brissett got the job done Sunday afternoon in Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts, who entered Sunday’s game ranked 27th in NFL scoring and 29th in yards per game, scored 28 first-half points and went on to defeat the Browns 31-28.
Brissett completed 9 of 12 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown during the first 30 minutes, and Hilton caught five first-half passes for 145 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown pass with 5:14 remaining in the second quarter that pushed the Indianapolis lead to 21-7.
Brissett also ran 5 and 7 yards for opening-half touchdowns, and Frank Gore ran 4 yards for a touchdown with 2:41 to play in the second quarter, giving the Colts a commanding 28-7 lead.
“We did a great job of taking advantage of the opportunities that they gave us,” Brissett said. “I enjoyed watching T.Y. put on a show and make a lot of big plays. It just so happened that our best players scored touchdowns today — T.Y. and Frank. T.Y. makes magic plays.
“A big emphasis this week was to get T.Y. involved. Today gives us a push in the right direction. It boosts us up. A lot of guys stepped up and made big plays. I was a lot more at ease today. I still have to do a better job. Today, I just played football.”
Completions of 31 and 25 yards to Hilton set up Indianapolis’ touchdowns, as did a 34-yard pass interference penalty on another pass intended for Hilton.
Brissett finished 17 of 24 for 259 yards and a touchdown. Hilton had seven receptions for 153 yards.
“We have to learn how to finish,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said. “I loved the way we started the game. Scoring 28 points in the first half of a National Football League game is huge. The quarterback had a good game, and T.Y. had a big game. But we still have a lot of stuff to clean up.
“Jacoby did a great job of managing things well, he protected the ball and made big plays. He will continue to grow. We got T.Y. the ball early and often. They gave us some chances to make big plays. He made big plays. Brissett had a huge game for him. We will continue to give him what he can handle.”
The Colts (1-2), who entered averaging 11 points and 245.5 yards per game, gained 260 yards on 31 plays in the first two quarters. The Browns (0-3) entered ranked 24th in NFL scoring (14.0) and 18th in yards per game (311.5).
Indianapolis extended its lead to 31-14 with 10:18 left in the fourth quarter on Adam Vinatieri’s 33-yard field goal after cornerback Rashaan Melvin’s second interception of Cleveland quarterback DeShone Kizer, who directed two first-half touchdown drives.
Kizer finished 22 of 47 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, including free safety Malik Hooker’s grab on the game’s final play.
The Browns have dropped their first three games for the eighth time since 1999 and for the sixth time in the past 10 seasons.
“We’re tired of being short,” Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson said of yet another loss. “We just gotta keep working. Nobody is throwing in the towel.”
Duke Johnson’s 18-yard touchdown run with 13:22 left in the second quarter capped a five-play, 75-yard drive and briefly tied the game at 7-7 before the Colts ran off 21 consecutive points during the first half’s final 10:06, which included drives of 75, 97 and 45 yards. Those drives were comprised of 14 total plays.
Kizer’s 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Njoku with 27 seconds left in the first half sliced the Colts’ halftime lead to 28-14. That 10-play drive covered 75 yards.
The Browns closed to within 31-21 with 6:56 remaining on Kizer’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt, capping a five-play, 56-yard drive.
Kizer’s 1-yard run with 2:04 to go completed an 11-play, 70-yard drive and pulled the Browns within three. The Colts’ Matthias Farley recovered the ensuing onside kick, sealing the Indianapolis victory.
Browns wide receiver Jordan Leslie, whose 26-yard, acrobatic catch kept a drive alive, summed up the team’s mood after losing a game in which it actually was favored.
“I’d trade (the catch) for a win,” a frustrated Leslie said.
NOTES: Deyshawn Bond started at center for the Colts in place of the injured Ryan Kelly, and Pierre Desir started at right cornerback in place of the injured Vontae Davis. … Indianapolis now leads the all-time series 15-14, including three consecutive victories. … Cleveland outscored Indianapolis 21-3 during the final 30:27.