INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano promised to make Indianapolis a better defensive team. On Saturday night, the Colts showed what they're capable of.
Indianapolis starters allowed only four first downs and three plays run in their territory, didn't yield a touchdown for the second straight week and even scored one on Larry Asante's late 48-yard interception return. Andrew Luck, meanwhile, threw for two touchdowns to lead the Colts past Cleveland 27-6.
It was a drastic improvement over what Colts fans witnessed in this venue two weeks ago, when Buffalo's rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel dinked-and-dunked their way to a 44-20 victory that drew the ire of team owner Jim Irsay.
Of course in that game, most of the starters exited before the end of the first quarter.
This time, Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden was consistently harassed and wound up 12 of 25 for 105 yards – just four days after being chosen the opening-day starter.
Weeden wasn't the only Cleveland player having trouble. There were drops, turnovers and penalties. And while Trent Richardson carried seven times for 31 yards, the rest of the Browns (2-1) rushed for only 28.
The difference was that Indy (2-1) had most of its starters on the field. Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry made his preseason debut against the Browns, and linebacker Pat Angerer was on the physically unable to perform list against Buffalo. Plus, most of the starters played into the second half.
Despite losing starting right guard Mike McGlynn (bruised knee) in practice this week and left tackle Anthony Castonzo (right knee) on the game's opening series, Luck and the starting offense also looked more together. Most of the offensive starters played into the third quarter.
The Colts wasted no time getting started. Luck led Indy on a 46-yard drive to set up Adam Vinatieri for a 32-yard field goal. After a punt, Luck engineered a 66-yard drive that ended with fullback Stanley Havili hauling in a 3-yard TD pass to make it 10-0 midway through the second quarter.
Luck struck again in the second half, hooking up with a wide-open T.Y. Hilton for an 8-yard TD catch to make it 17-0.
Weeden responded with Cleveland's first scoring drive, going 48 yards for Shayne Graham's 50-yard field goal against Indy's second-string defense. Graham added a 44-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Asante capped the scoring by picking off a tipped ball and sprinting 48 yards to the end zone.
Luck finished 16 of 25 for 164 yards with one interception.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org