Colts use defense to overcome mistake-filled day vs. Browns

CLEVELAND -- Peyton Manning stepped up to the podium for a postgame interview like he has done so many times following an Indianapolis win. But this time there were no touchdown passes to review, no career milestones to celebrate, no last-minute scoring drive for him to detail.

The quarterback wasn't the star.

The Colts had 11 on defense.

Four downs



» The win is the Colts' fifth straight overall and third straight on the road.

» Peyton Manning's 46.8 passer rating is the second lowest in his career in a win.

» The Browns are 1-6 at home this season (7-1 at home last season).

» Cleveland did not score a TD for the second straight game (the last time it had two straight games without a TD was Dec. 2005).

Defensive end Robert Mathis scooped up quarterback Derek Anderson's fumble and rumbled 37 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Colts stayed in the thick of the AFC playoff chase by winning their fifth straight, 10-6 over the Cleveland Browns, who suffered another demoralizing loss on Sunday.

Mathis' big play helped bail out Manning and Indy's high-powered offense, which failed to score a TD for the first time since Sept. 7, 2003, a 9-6 win at Cleveland.

Afterward, Manning could only laugh when asked to assess his performance.

"I'm sure I could, but I'd rather not," Manning said with a laugh. "Our defense won the game for us."

Manning finished 15-for-21 for 125 yards, a season low and only the 10th time in 172 career starts that he was under 150 yards.

"We scored three points on them," he said. "That's a great credit to their defense. We still won, but we probably didn't play winning offensive football. You score three points, that's not good enough."

Adam Vinatieri kicked a 30-yard field goal as the Colts (8-4) capped a 5-0 November, a month-long run that has allowed them to rebound from a 3-4 start. They've managed to slide by each time during the streak, winning the five games by a combined 20 points.

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"Close, blowouts, whatever it takes," defensive end Dwight Freeney said.

The Browns (4-8) held Manning and Co. without a TD, but still hit a new low in their sunken season.

They lost their fourth straight at home and will likely be without quarterback Derek Anderson for their final four games.

Anderson, starting in place of the injured Brady Quinn, sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee when he was hit by the helmet of his teammate in the closing minutes. Beleaguered Browns coach Romeo Crennel said Anderson "may be in tough shape" and said Ken Dorsey is his starter for next Sunday at Tennessee.

On Cleveland's last drive, Anderson, making his first start since being benched by Crennel, was dropping back to pass when offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer was knocked back into him by a charging Mathis. Anderson tried to get up, but couldn't and had to be helped to the sideline. Dorsey came in for the final three plays and was intercepted on the Browns' last snap.

"It's not very good," said Anderson, who will undergo more tests on Monday. "I felt a burn, a pain. It's disappointing."

The Browns also lost tight end Kellen Winslow, who went out on the first play of the third quarter with an ankle injury and didn't return. He declined interview requests following the game.

The loss of two of his best players won't help Crennel, who may be down to his final days for the Browns, who are 1-6 at home and haven't scored a touchdown in nearly 135 minutes.

"The guys aren't going to give up," Anderson said. "Every single guy in here cares about each other and cares about winning. We love RAC (Crennel) and we're going to play for RAC. That's the biggest thing in the last four weeks."

Manning was unable to find the same gaping holes in Cleveland's secondary that Houston quarterback Sage Rosenfels, Denver's Jay Cutler and Baltimore's Joe Flacco exploited in recent weeks. The Colts had only 215 total yards, ran just 50 plays and had the ball for less than 28 minutes. They were also without Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders and starting center Jeff Saturday.

But Indianapolis won, and that's all that matters this time of year.

One play was all the Colts needed.

With the Browns clinging to a 6-3 lead, Anderson was setting up to throw on third down at his own 45 when he was hit from behind by Freeney, whose bull rush drove tackle Joe Thomas into Anderson's back. The ball squirted loose, Mathis picked it up and lumbered in for the game's first and only TD.

"The ball was on the ground, I scooped it up and ran for my life," Mathis said. "It's the first time I've ever run with a football. I saw all that grass in front of me. I was looking back and hoping I had enough gas left to get there."

Notes: Sanders missed his third straight game with swelling in his right knee. ... The Browns said Quinn still has not decided whether to have surgery on his broken finger. ... Manning was intercepted twice, but one came on a desperation heave on the last play of the first half. ... Browns K Phil Dawson made field goals from 34 and 25 yards but missed from 34. ... Colts LB Gary Brackett injured his ankle in the second quarter and did not return.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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