In a gutsy final drive for the Browns, they marched down the field to set themselves up in the red zone, winding down the clock. The Browns punched in a touchdown on a one-yard carry from RB Kareem Hunt to give the Browns the lead. Then, one more defensive stop with a forced fumble and fumble recovery clinched the win for the Browns over the Colts.
The Browns are now 4-2 on the season and won their first road game this season. Let's look at three of the biggest takeaways from their 39-38 win over the Colts on Sunday.
Increased presence of takeaways
The Browns defense has been a dominant force throughout the first five games of the season. Heading into Week 7, Cleveland had allowed just 1,002 yards, which was the third fewest in the NFL through five games since 1971. They had allowed only 52 first downs.
But the one thing that was missing from the defense's performance on a weekly basis was multiple takeaways. They've talked about how takeaways come in bunches. Yet, heading into Week 7, the Browns only had four total takeaways through five games.
That changed on Sunday, as the Browns had four takeaways on the day. The Browns defense forced three fumbles and recovered all three, as well as an interception. They also recorded four sacks on veteran QB Gardner Minshew, two of which came from DE Myles Garrett.
Garrett forced a fumble in the end zone with less than two minutes in the first half. Garrett beat two blockers and sacked Minshew, and as the ball popped out, LB Tony Fields II recovered the ball for the touchdown.
Garrett also led the charge on special teams when Colts K Matt Gay lined up for a 60-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, and he jumped over the center to block the kick. CB Denzel Ward recovered the ball for 19 yards, which set the Browns up for a field goal.
"That's Godzilla, man," Hunt said of Garrett. "He's a freak. He's the best I've seen."
In the third quarter, Ward picked off a pass intended for and returned the ball for 20 yards. And in the final nine seconds of the game, DE Za'Darius Smith sacked Minshew and forced a fumble, which DE Ogbo Okoronkwo recovered and clinched the win.
"They fought and made plays when we had to," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "I mean, we got four takeaways today, which was outstanding. That really turned the tide of the game."
P.J. Walker handles coming in at QB during the game
While QB Deshaun Watson started at quarterback on Sunday, backup P.J. Walker came in during the first quarter after Watson suffered a hit, and Walker finished the game as the Browns quarterback. Walker threw for 15-of-32 and 178 yards, as well as one interception.
"We needed Moxy," Stefanski said. "We needed guts. We needed grit. We needed all of it today. And P.J.'s done that. I mean, we talk about a backup quarterback, you have to be ready to go. And sometimes you get the reps, and sometimes you don't. He performed admirably and got us there in the end zone at the end."
Walker said that even though he didn't start, he still felt comfortable taking the field after Watson's injury with the energy of his teammates around him. It helped him bring up his energy and level of play.
Walker marched the Browns down the field with about two and a half minutes left of the game, he connected with WR Elijah Moore for a 30-yard gain. Walker then threw a pass to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones for 17 yards. With less than a minute to play, Walker was sacked and fumbled the ball, but a defensive penalty that was enforced gave the Browns another chance and put the Browns in the red zone.
On the Browns final drive, Walker threw on the first three downs in the red zone and was not able to connect with his targets in the end zone. Then, on fourth down, they handed the ball to Hunt who ran up the middle for the touchdown to put the Browns ahead.
"Thought process was that I didn't want to run it before fourth down," Stefanksi explained. "I didn't want the clock to be ticking and trying to line up, and it's hard to do that in certain personnel groupings. So, the guys were begging for a run, and I told them, 'It's coming. Just hang with me.' And that was always going to be the call on fourth down. Now, if we could have gotten it in there without taking time off the clock that was also our goal. But there was method to the madness."
The Browns dealt with a handful of injuries in Sunday's win, beginning with when QB Deshaun Watson took a hit in the first quarter. He attempted to throw a pass and was hit by Colts DE Dayo Odeyingbo, and Watson fell backwards. Watson said following the game that he was not sure if he aggravated his shoulder more following the hit but confirmed that he was hit on the shoulder.
It was announced that Watson was also evaluated for a concussion and cleared, but he did not end up returning to the game.
"On a personal level, of course it's very disappointing," Watson said. "I worked my tail off to get to this moment the last three or four weeks, and it came up short. Just right back to the drawing board. It's part of the game, just have to deal with the adversity. But I'm going to keep my head held high, keep grinding and training and being there for my teammates."
Stefanski said that he made the decision to not put Watson back in the game because he wanted to protect Watson from further injury. At one point, Stefanski walked over to Watson on the sideline and spoke with him.
"I did not want to see him get hit," Stefanski said. "He was hit hard, and I know he cleared all that, but I just thought I needed to protect him."
Watson said that while he wanted to be out there to compete with his team, he understood Stefanski's decision to protect him. He understood that what he's dealing with in his shoulder is not only a muscle, but he needs to be able to perform at the highest level.
"The decision was best for the team, and they felt like that was the best," Watson said. "And P.J. (Walker) did a great job of finishing the game, and everyone else played a heck a job to get the win."
The Browns dealt with a couple of other injuries as well. DE Alex Wright was placed in concussion protocol, and RB Jerome Ford left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. Ford rushed for 74 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown.