Colts comeback could kill Cleveland#039;s playoff hopes

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 16, 2002

CLEVELAND -- Although his team trailed 16-0 at halftime, Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy didn't rant, rave or throw a chair across the locker room.

Instead, he calmly told his players to go out in the second half and make plays.

And that's just what the Colts did.

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Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes to Marvin Harrison, and James Mungro ran for two scores as Indianapolis rallied for a 28-23 victory Sunday over the Cleveland Browns, who once again took a game down to the final play.

At halftime, the Colts (9-5) were in trouble. But Dungy, their first-year coach, didn't panic.

''We came in at half, and the coach is as cool as a cucumber,'' said Harrison, who set an NFL record for receptions in a season. ''That's a big part of it, being relaxed.''

Cool would also describe Manning, who ran a no-huddle offense for most of the second half and called audibles on all four plays that went for TDs.

''Peyton makes some crazy calls,'' said Mungro, who scored on runs of 25 and 3 yards while filling in for Edgerrin James. ''It sometimes makes you nervous, but his composure is amazing and rubs off.''

With the Colts running the no-huddle, the Browns were unable to make defensive substitutions which allowed Manning to make adjustments on the fly.

''This was not Week 3,'' Manning said. ''This was do-or-die. We had to come through.''

Harrison broke an NFL record, a few Colts marks, and damaged the playoff hopes of the Browns (7-7) with his TD grabs. He finished with six catches for 172 yards.

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 has 127 receptions for 1,566 yards this season.

''I just catch them, I don't count them,'' Harrison said. ''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, 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 rookie Andre' Davis' hands.

Davis felt he should have come up with Couch's fastball.

''I think anything that hits one or both of my hands, I think I should have it,'' he said. ''I take total responsibility for us not winning the game.''

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 atoned with his ninth 100-yard game this season.

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.

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.