INDIANAPOLIS -- With the majority of the Browns’ offensive starters on the sidelines, Garrett Gilbert and D'Ernest Johnson took full advantage of the opportunity and capped a productive week on the road in impressive fashion.
The journeyman quarterback and young running back spearheaded a Browns offense that scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the first half of Saturday’s 21-18 victory over the Colts.
Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Drew Stanton, running back Nick Chubb, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku did not play. Cleveland’s starting offensive line was on the field for the first series.
So it was Gilbert -- who signed with the Browns after his eight-game stint in the now-defunct AAF -- who got the start after the teams’ two joint practices earlier in the week. After leading a touchdown drive in Cleveland’s preseason opener last week, Gilbert led two Saturday and finished 13-of-19 for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
After a clunky start, the Browns got rolling on their third offensive series, which was extended by a significant, third-down pass interference penalty. On the seventh play of the 64-yard drive, Gilbert found a wide open Jaelen Strong in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
They moved just as swiftly down the field on their next possession. Gilbert found D.J. Montgomery down the sidelines for 32 yards before firing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.
Johnson finished with 10 carries for 53 yards and three receptions for 26 yards and the touchdown. A former teammate of Gilbert’s for the AAF’s Orlando Apollos, Johnson also fielded kicks and punts in the first half.
Check out photos of the Cleveland Browns vs the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium by team photographer Matt Starkey
The majority of Cleveland’s starters on defense, with the exception of Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, played throughout the first quarter. Indianapolis used most of its healthy starters on offense -- a group that doesn’t currently include quarterback Andrew Luck and all-pro guard Quenton Nelson -- through the first quarter and into the second and its top defenders for the first two series.
A mix of Browns first- and second-teamers were on the field early in the second quarter when Indianapolis’ starters drove 85 yards on 10 plays -- one of the biggest being a fourth-and-3 conversion -- and found the end zone on a 12-yard Eric Ebron touchdown catch.
The Colts were back in the end zone early in the fourth quarter on a drive aided at the start and in the middle by Browns penalties. Quarterback Chad Kelly connected with tight end Ross Travis for the score.
When Cleveland’s defense was mostly first-teamers on the first two series, Indianapolis picked up just one first down and punted twice.
Both of Cleveland’s kickers missed long field goal attempts, as Greg Joseph went wide left on a 53-yarder at the end of the first half and rookie Austin Seibert missed left on a 52-yard attempt late in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland heads to Tampa Bay on Friday for its third preseason game.