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Out of luck

Colts thwart Browns' comeback attempt to prevail 28-23

Posted: Sunday December 15, 2002 5:09 PM
Updated: Monday December 16, 2002 2:45 AM
  Tony Dungy, Tim Couch Tony Dungy consoles Tim Couch, whose Browns fell to 7-7. Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Peyton Manning called audibles on four plays that all turned into Indianapolis touchdowns. Twice, the Colts quarterback checked off to plays he knew would work.

The ones to Marvin Harrison.

Harrison broke an NFL record, a few Colts marks, and probably Cleveland's playoff hopes Sunday by catching two TD passes in the second half as Indianapolis rallied for a 28-23 win over the Cleveland Browns.

"He is unbelievable," Colts head coach Tony Dungy said of Harrison. "He was geared up all week and ready to go. He is amazing."

The Colts (9-5) trailed 16-0 at halftime before storming back with a no-huddle offense and behind the speedy Harrison, who finished with nine catches for 172 yards and set a league record for receptions in a season.

Harrison's sixth catch -- on a fourth-down play in the third quarter -- moved him past Herman Moore, who caught 123 passes for Detroit in 1995.

Harrison now has 127 receptions for 1,566 yards this season.

SI's Don Banks
  • Better to give than receive: Marvin Harrison picked a fine time to have the defining performance of his outstanding season.

    "I just catch them, I don't count them," said Harrison, who has now hooked up with Manning for 57 career TDs. "Peyton and I were on the same page. I just keep catching them. We needed to win. We don't win, records don't mean much."

    Harrison's performance and a big stop by Indianapolis' defense in the final seconds held off the Browns (7-7), whose latest comeback came up 5 yards short.

    Out of timeouts, quarterback Tim Couch moved Cleveland to the Colts' 10 with 1:23 left, but the Browns couldn't score the go-ahead TD as Couch's fourth-down pass from the 5-yard line went off Andre' Davis' hands.

    Davis felt he should have come up with Couch's fastball.

    "I take total responsibility for not winning the game," Davis said.

    Inside the Numbers
    Single-season receptions
    Player, Team  Year  No. 
    Marvin Harrison, IND  2002  127* 
    Herman Moore, DET  1995  123 
    Cris Carter, MIN  1994  122 
    Cris Carter, MIN  1995  122 
    Jerry Rice, SF  1995  122 
    Isaac Bruce, STL  1995  119 
    Jimmy Smith, JAC  1999  116 
    Marvin Harrison, IND  1999  115 
    Rod Smith, DEN  2001  113 
    Sterling Sharpe, GB  1993  112 
    Jerry Rice, SF  1994  112 
    Jimmy Smith, JAC  2001  112 
    * -- through Dec. 15

    James Mungro, filling in for Edgerrin James, had two TD runs as the first-place Colts moved one-half game ahead of idle Tennessee. The Titans host New England on Monday night.

    Couch, playing the biggest game of his four-year career, finished 21-of-35 for 287 yards and two TDs. He was equal to Manning, his close friend, but Cleveland's quarterback doesn't have any weapons like Harrison.

    Harrison gave the Browns' secondary fits all afternoon. He caught short passes and turned them into long gains, and whenever Manning needed a big play, he went to No. 88.

    "That man had three catches in the first half," said Browns cornerback Corey Fuller, "and then we let him explode."

    Harrison felt he let the Colts down last week with a drop in a loss at Tennessee, but more than made it for it with his ninth 100-yard game this season.

    "I knew he was going to come up with a big day," Dungy said.

    Harrison's 25-yard TD reception brought the Colts within 16-14 late in the third quarter, but the Browns countered with a 2-yard TD run by rookie William Green to go ahead by nine.

    Policy of truth
    CLEVELAND (AP) -- Carmen Policy wasn't in the mood for one of his eloquent speeches.

    Following another frustrating loss by the Browns, Cleveland's president made every word count as he talked about the disappointing state of his football team.

    "I thought we were going to step up and understand what it is all about," Policy said following Sunday's 28-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. "The playoffs, home field, dealing with the big game, and we just didn't do it."

    In perhaps their biggest game since returning to the league, the Browns (7-7) blew a 16-0 lead and suffered their toughest loss in a season of tough losses.

    For Policy, the loss was especially depressing since it once again showed that the Browns can't get a win when they need one most.

    "They don't know how to win in this type of situation," Policy said, "because it takes you to a different level when you are in a big game with so much on the line."


    However, the Colts came right back as Manning connected with Harrison on a 3-yard TD with 11:30 remaining.

    After the Browns punted, Manning hit Harrison for 34 yards down to the Cleveland 10. Three plays later, Mungro plowed through the middle to make it 28-23.

    "Peyton made some crazy calls," Mungro said. "He makes you a little nervous, but you look at him and he doesn't panic."

    As usual, the Browns took it down to the final seconds. They converted a fourth down to stay alive and a pass interference call helped them get to the 10.

    But on third down, Colts linebacker Josh Williams batted down Couch's pass at the goal line, and Couch's last shot was thrown slightly behind Davis in the back of the end zone.

    "This is the most down I've been after a game because I wanted to come out and win this game more than any game I've ever been in," said Couch, who has battled inconsistency and critics all season. "It's a heartbreaking loss."

    Notes: James spent most of the second half on the Colts' bench. A team spokesman refused to say whether the running back was hurt. ... Harrison became the first player to have more than 1,500 yards in consecutive seasons. ... Manning went over 20,000 career yards, and became the second fastest player -- behind Dan Marino -- to reach the plateau. ... Browns WR Quincy Morgan had a 78-yard TD on the game's first play, the first time Cleveland has done that since Dec. 12, 1993, vs. Houston. Morgan finished with three catches for 90 yards.

    Related information
    Colts-Browns Game Summary
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