Out of luck
Colts thwart Browns' comeback attempt to prevail 28-23Posted: Sunday December 15, 2002 5:09 PM
Updated: Monday December 16, 2002 2:45 AM
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.
"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.
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.
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.