INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jacoby Brissett ran for two touchdowns, threw for another and the Colts defense held off Cleveland’s late charge Sunday to preserve a 31-28 victory.
Brissett, acquired in a trade with New England earlier this month, looked much more comfortable in his second start, going 17 of 24 with 259 yards and running five times for 14 yards.
Indy (1-2) avoided its first 0-3 start in six years.
Cleveland (0-3) lost its 15th consecutive road game despite being favored for the first time since 2015 and a road favorite for the first time since 2012.
Brissett was the primary reason for the Browns latest loss.
He started the scoring with a 5-yard TD run, broke a 7-7 tie by spinning away from pressure and scooting 7 yards for his second score and then hooked up with T.Y. Hilton on a 61-yard TD pass to make it 21-7 — all in the first half.
Frank Gore’s 4-yard scoring run made it 28-7.
Cleveland spent the rest of the game playing catch-up, but had two second-half scoring chances snuffed out by Rashaan Melvin’s interceptions.
It’s the best the Colts have looked this season, and it was largely because of steady progress Brissett’s made since being traded from New England to Indy on Sept. 2.
After acknowledging he spent his first two weeks in Indy learning new names, new faces and a new playbook, Brissett managed to get in sync with Hilton and it made a huge difference.
Hilton caught seven passes for 153 yards. He scored on a nifty catch-and-run by cutting from the sideline across the field to take advantage of the over-pursuing safety Jabrill Peppers. And Hilton set up a second score by drawing a pass interference penalty at the Browns 11-yard line.
The Browns got a 19-yard TD run from Duke Johnson Jr. and two touchdown passes from DeShone Kizer — a 1-yarder to David Njoku just before halftime and an 11-yarder to Kenny Britt. Kizer scored on a 1-yard plunge with 2:04 left to cut the deficit to 31-28.
Cleveland got one last chance after stopping Indy on the Browns 45. But Malik Hooker picked off Kizer’s desperation heave on the game’s final play.
Kizer finished 22 of 47 with 242 yards and threw three interceptions. He also ran seven times for 44 yards.
Gore ran 25 times for 57 yards and became the ninth player in NFL history to record 3,000 carries. He has 3,011, and the milestone came on his 4-yard TD run.
Browns: No. 1 draft pick Myles Garrett missed his third straight game with an injured ankle and linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. sat out with a concussion. Johnson left briefly in the first half but returned in the second half.
Colts: Quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder), center Ryan Kelly (foot) and cornerback Vontae Davis (groin) still have not played this season. They were joined on the inactive list by two draft picks — running back Marlon Mack (shoulder) and cornerback Quincy Wilson (knee). Receiver Kamar Aiken left with a concussion in the first quarter.
Browns: Return home for the first time since the season opener to face cross-state rival Cincinnati.
Colts: Travel to Seattle for Sunday Night Football.