INDIANAPOLIS – Andrew Luck used his quick reactions and fleet feet to beat Cleveland on Sunday.
He became the first Colts quarterback since 1988 to run for two touchdowns in the same game and won the first head-to-head matchup of this season's rookie starters, leading Indianapolis to a 17-13 victory over the Browns.
Indianapolis (3-3) got back to .500 in its third game under interim coach Bruce Arians and now has one more win than it did all of last season. After the game, Arians told reporters that coach Chuck Pagano had been released from the hospital Sunday morning and watched the game from his home as he continues to undergo treatment for leukemia.
The biggest reason for this season's turnaround has been Luck's solid play at Lucas Oil Stadium, where Indianapolis has won three of its four home games.
Luck finished 16 of 29 for 186 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions – the second straight week he did not throw for a score. He lost a fumble and was more efficient on the ground, running three times for 12 yards and the two scores as Indy ran for a season-high 148 yards.
Statistically speaking, Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden outplayed Luck.
Weeden was 25 of 41 for 264 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. But the Browns ground game went nowhere, and Josh Gordon inexplicably dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone that would have given Cleveland the lead with 6:38 left in the game.
Trent Richardson tried to play through injured rib cartilage and managed only eight yards on eight carries in the first half. He was relegated to the bench in the second half, and Cleveland wound up with only 55 yards rushing all day.
Instead, the difference was Luck's ability to run.
Following last week's dismal performance in New York, Luck made amends quickly.
He opened the game by leading the Colts on an 11-play, 80-yard drive, scoring on a 3-yard TD run.
Weeden answered with his own opening flurry on a 90-yard drive. After converting third-and-2, third-and-11, third-and-8 and third-and-13, Weeden hooked up with Greg Little, who made a juggling catch in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal from the Indy 14. The play was upheld by the replay booth. But punter Reggie Hodges dropped the ball on the hold, leaving Cleveland in a 7-6 a deficit.
Luck came back with another long drive. This time, on the final play, he rolled right, looked into the end zone, saw the coverage and sprinted toward the pylon in the front right corner for a 5-yard TD run and a 14-6 lead. It was the first time an Indianapolis quarterback ran for two scores in the same game since Ricky Turner did it Dec. 4, 1988 against Miami. The other quarterback in franchise history to achieve the feat was Bert Jones on Oct. 20, 1974 against the Jets.
Weeden got going fast in the second half, taking six plays to hook up with Gordon on a 33-yard TD pass to make it 14-13.
Luck's answer: A 17-play, 61-yard drive to set up Adam Vinatieri for a 38-yard field goal that extended the Colts' lead to 17-13 late in the third quarter.
Cleveland got into Colts territory two more times, but Gordon dropped the touchdowns and they couldn't convert on fourth-and-6 after the 2-minute warning.