Posted: Sunday December 26, 1999 06:31 PM
CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Mike Vanderjagt's 21-yard field goal with four seconds left capped a furious fourth-quarter comeback as the Indianapolis Colts kept alive their hopes for homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a 29-28 win over the Cleveland Browns.
At 13-2, Indianapolis completed the best turnaround in NFL history with a 10-game improvement from last season's 3-13 mark. The Colts tied a club record with its 11th straight win and matched a franchise record for most wins in a season, set in 1968 when the Colts finished 13-1.
"The objective in this business is to win football games and that's what we did," Mora said. "That's a credit to our team that we were able to come back and win. We'll take the win. I'm happy with it, but I'm not pleased with the way we played in certain areas. Hopefully we can learn from this, correct it and make us a better team down the road."
Edgerrin James' third touchdown run of the game from two yards out pulled Indianapolis within 28-26 with 9:54 left in the fourth quarter.
After forcing the Browns to punt, the Colts started on their own 43 with 4:12 remaining. But Peyton Manning guided his team 54 yards, including a 10-yard pass to James on 3rd-and-4 to the Cleveland 20, to set up Vanderjagt's game-winning kick, his third field goal of the game.
"It was a dogfight the entire game. That's what we expected," Manning said. "We didn't play as well as we could have. I feel good about the win. This is a tough place to play. We'll take the win and run with it."
Indianapolis moved into a tie with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the best record in the AFC going into the final weekend of the regular season. The Colts play at Buffalo next week, while the Jaguars host Cincinnati.
"Coach (Jim) Mora addressed it yesterday a little bit," Manning said. "We didn't get into the tiebreaker rules. But we needed to come in here today and score points to win. We needed to score a lot of points and win."
Manning completed 28-of-44 passes for 283 yards. Marvin Harrison reeled in a franchise-record 14 catches for 138 yards, and James had 103 yards on 28 carries. The Colts racked up 404 yards of total offense.
Terry Kirby rushed for two touchdowns and Karim Abdul-Jabbar had 82 yards on 19 carries as the Browns (2-14) rushed for a season-high 141 yards in their final game of the season.
Starting for the injured rookie Tim Couch, Ty Detmer was 15-of-26 for 173 yards and added an eight-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, the longest scoring run of the season for Cleveland.
The Browns finished winless at home in its first season back in the league.
Cleveland went 60 yards in seven plays on its opening drive of the second half as Detmer went up the middle on 3rd-and-4 for a touchdown to extend the Browns' lead to 21-13.
But the Colts answered back on their next possession as James had three carries for 28 yards, including a 15-yard run to the Cleveland 3 which set up his one-yard run two plays later. James failed to reach the end zone on his conversion attempt as Cleveland's lead was cut to 21-19 with 7:04 left in the third quarter.
The Browns moved out to a 28-19 lead late in the quarter as they went 90 yards on seven plays, capped off by Kirby's second touchdown run of the game from one yard out with 11 seconds to go.
"I have been in situations where at the end off the year guys have their cars running in the parking lot ready to go home," Cleveland coach Chris Palmer said. "But our guys hung in there and it caused an exciting ballgame."
Abdul-Jabbar helped Cleveland take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter as he had five carries for 28 yards, including an 11-yard run to the Indianapolis 7, to set up Kirby's one-yard score with 4:10 to play.
Harrison, who already has set club records for receptions and yards in a season, had four catches for 71 yards on the Colts' game-tying drive late in the quarter.
"When you're in the flow off the game, you just go out and make plays and try to make catches," Harrison said. "When it was over, it was a shock to me but I really didn't notice."
After getting the ball back, the Colts took a risk as they went for it on 4th-and-8 at the Cleveland 31. But Manning connected with Harrison on a 30-yard pass to the Cleveland 1 on the final play of the first quarter. James' one-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second quarter tied the game.
Detmer engineered Cleveland's go-ahead touchdown as he completed two third-down passes to set up his 28-yard touchdown pass to Darrin Chiaverini with 10:07 left in the first half.
Vanderjagt's 41-yard field goal with 1:56 left in the second quarter cut the Browns' lead to 14-10. The Colts forced Cleveland to punt, and Terrence Wilkins returned it 39 yards to the Cleveland 33 with 51 seconds remaining.
Manning's 15-yard pass to Wilkins moved the ball to the Cleveland 3 with 22 seconds left. After three straight incompletions, Vanderjagt kicked a 19-yard field goal with no time left as Indianapolis moved within 14-13.
Copyright © 2000|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.