Collins struggles in Indy’s loss to BrownsBy CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer Monday, Sep 19, 2011
Manning, the Colts’ franchise quarterback, is out indefinitely after neck surgery, and Collins did nothing during Indianapolis’ home opener to make the locals feel better about it. Collins had two fourth-quarter turnovers and struggled for large stretches during a 27-19 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
“We put together some drives, we just didn’t finish,” Collins said. “Obviously, there are some things we didn’t do in the second half that didn’t allow us to put ourselves in a position to win the game.”
Expectations for the Colts dropped sharply when the severity of Manning’s situation became clear. But blue-clad fans, many wearing Manning’s No. 18, packed Lucas Oil Stadium hoping the previous week’s 34-7 loss at Houston was simply the result of first-game jitters.
It wasn’t. A fan base that has learned over the years to stay tuned because no deficit has seemed too large for Manning to overcome headed for the exits early.
“Traffic gets hectic out there, so I’m just going to say they were going to beat the traffic,” Colts receiver Reggie Wayne(notes) said. “It’s nothing personal. It happens. When fans feel like the game’s over, they try to beat rush hour. That’s the way it goes, I guess.”
It’s Indy’s first 0-2 start since 1998, Manning’s rookie year, and the 26 points in the first two games is the team’s lowest total since that year.
Things were so bad that even long-suffering Cleveland fans took shots at the Colts. An emboldened Browns fan held up a sign with the taunting message: “Where’s Your Peyton?”—a double dagger because of Manning’s absence and Peyton Hillis’(notes) dominance.
Hillis, Cleveland’s 250-pound wrecking ball of a running back, rumbled for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 27 bruising carries. In the fourth quarter, he appeared to be bottled up near the line of scrimmage, but then broke away for a 24-yard touchdown on a critical third-and-6 to push Cleveland’s lead to 24-12.
“We have a lot of confidence in Peyton,” Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas(notes) said. “If we are going to give him 15-20 runs a game, he’s going to break one because defenses don’t like to see his style of runner. He’s going to run downhill and run over people, and in the fourth quarter, they’re going to be tired and he’s going to be running away in the end zone.”
While Hillis converted on his big third-down, the Colts converted on 4 of 14 third downs, a week after converting just 1 of 9 against Houston.
“Obviously, two weeks in a row not being able to convert on third down, that is a crucial down, that’s where you make your money,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. “We have to be better in that area.”
In the first half, the Colts moved the ball effectively, but settled for three field goals and trailed 14-9 at halftime.
“We’re just not getting the job done,” Wayne said. “We’ve got to figure out what we’ve got to do. That’s what the films are for—to look at the films and correct the mistakes. Hopefully, we can figure it out sooner than later. I believe we’re close.”
After Indy got a stop later in the quarter, the Colts got the ball with 5:47 left. The Colts went three-and-out, and Joshua Cribbs(notes) returned the punt 43 yards to the Indianapolis 28. On a third-and-6 from the Indianapolis 24, Hillis broke loose for the touchdown.
Indianapolis got the ball back, but on third down, Jabaal Sheard(notes) sacked Collins, forced him to fumble and recovered. That led to another field goal by Dawson, a 23-yarder that put the Browns up 27-12 with 3:02 remaining.
That’s when the fans started leaving.
Fewer than half the fans who showed up stuck around long enough to see the touchdown.
The Colts’ offensive line talked all week about how this week would be different, and said Collins would have a chance to get the ball to his playmakers. That didn’t happen. An All-Star cast of receivers that includes multiple-time Pro Bowlers Wayne and Clark hardly saw the ball. The immobile Collins found himself trying to escape pocket collapse after pocket collapse.
Collins padded his second-half stats on his final drive: he went 8 for 12 for 88 yards and a touchdown on the final possession. Before that, he had completed 2 of 12 passes for 15 yards in the second half.
“There’s 16 rounds and we lost two of them,” he said. “We just have to get it together and get some things together.”
Notes: Colts right guard Ryan Diem(notes) left in the second quarter with an ankle injury and was replaced by Mike Pollak(notes). Defensive tackle Fili Moala(notes) also left in the first half with an ankle injury. … Evan Moore(notes) was the first Browns player to score a TD against Indy in four games, dating to William Green’s TD run in 2002. … Browns cornerback Joe Haden(notes) was called for pass interference and illegal contact on the same play during the Colts’ first series and later drew a defensive holding penalty after giving up a first-down catch. … Cleveland right tackle Tony Pashos(notes) (left ankle) missed his second straight game.
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