Browns lose third straight home opener

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 8, 2003

CLEVELAND -- The Indianapolis Colts were talking about Mike Vanderjagt again, but this time the kicker didn't have any reason to apologize.

The Colts' family feud is over.

''Everything is fine and dandy in Coltsville,'' Peyton Manning said.

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Vanderjagt, whose offseason comments in an interview stung the Colts, kicked a 45-yard field goal with 1 second left Sunday, leading Indianapolis to a 9-6 season-opening win over the Cleveland Browns.

In an interview last February, Vanderjagt said coach Tony Dungy was too nice, that Manning needed to show more emotion and other Indianapolis players lacked passion.

Manning responded by calling the kicker ''an idiot'', and Vanderjagt spent several weeks trying to smooth things over with his teammates.

On Sunday, Vanderjagt's kick ended a ugly afternoon of football, and it may have finally closed the book on his rift with Manning.

''I'm one of the boys on the team, not some idiot kicker,'' Vanderjagt said. ''We've had closure on this thing for months now. Hopefully, it ends here.''

Manning said he moved on long ago.

''Mike and I did that on purpose to win it like that,'' Manning joked. ''Seriously, and we haven't been lying, it has been a closed book on the topic since February.''

Manning, who threw two interceptions in the first half and wasn't sharp for most of the afternoon, drove the Colts 65 yards in the final 2:39 to set up Vanderjagt's third field goal.

The Browns failed to score a touchdown despite twice having first-and-goal at the Colts' 3. Cleveland has lost five straight openers since 1999, including three in a row at home -- all on last-second field goals.

''I'm disappointed and a little bit angry,'' Browns coach Butch Davis said.

Manning, who finished 27-of-43 for 211 yards, threw one of his interceptions in the end zone in the first half.

But on Colts' game-winning drive, he went 8-for-10 while using five receivers. A year ago, Manning rallied the Colts from a 16-0 halftime deficit to beat the Browns 28-23.

''Look at that last drive,'' running back Edgerrin James said. ''No mistakes. No penalties. That's the key. It came together at the right time.''

After Indianapolis forced a punt, Manning took over at his own 8. He completed three passes for 26 yards, and then zipped a 15-yarder to Reggie Wayne on a crucial third-and-10.

''I live for plays like that, to get my number called,'' Wayne said. ''Peyton put the ball right there. Simple as that.''

Manning then completed four straight to get the Colts to the Browns 25 with 6 seconds left. The Browns called a timeout to try and ice Vanderjagt, who entered the season as the NFL's most accurate kicker.

But despite a bad snap, Vanderjagt kicked a knuckleball through for the game-winner, the seventh time in his career he has won a game with a kick in the final 15 seconds.

Phil Dawson kicked two field goals for the Browns, who were in 12 games decided by eight points or less last season and already have one nail-biter in 2003.

''It's heartbreaking,'' safety Earl Little said, ''but we have 15 games left.''

Kelly Holcomb, who beat out Tim Couch to be Cleveland's starter, finished 20-of-29 for 182 yards, but threw two interceptions in the first half and seemed reluctant to throw anything deep after halftime.

The Browns had five cracks inside the 10 in the fourth quarter, but couldn't get in as Dawson's 20-yard field goal with 8:50 left tied it at 6.

''All the mistakes we made, jumping offsides, holding, throwing interceptions in the red zone, that was the deciding factor,'' Holcomb said.

Notes: Marvin Harrison, who destroyed the Browns last season, had nine catches for 44 yards. He has caught a pass in 109 straight games. … James finished with 67 yards, leaving him 20 shy of becoming the fifth back in Colts' history to rush for at least 5,000 yards. … The Browns, who haven't won a season opener since 1994, wore orange pants since Dec. 18, 1983, when they beat Pittsburgh 30-17.

Indianapolis 0333--9

Cleveland 3003--6

First Quarter

Cle--FG Dawson 19, :53.

Second Quarter

Ind--FG Vanderjagt 22, :00.

Third Quarter

Ind--FG Vanderjagt 46, 3:43.

Fourth Quarter

Cle--FG Dawson 20, 8:50.

Ind--FG Vaderjagt 45, :01.


First downs: Ind18,Cle18

Total Net Yards: Ind271,Cle280

Rushes-yards: Ind 15-67,Cle26-98

Passing: Ind 204,Cle182

Punt Returns: Ind1-2,Cle1-2

Kickoff Returns: Ind3-55,Cle3-36

Interceptions Ret.: Ind2-43,Cle2-25

Comp-Att-Int: Ind27-43-2,Cle20-29-2

Sacked-Yards Lost: Ind1-7,Cle0-0

Punts: Ind 3-39.7,Cle3-42.3

Fumbles-Lost: Ind2-0,Cle2-0

Penalties-Yards: Ind 9-53,Cle9-64

Time of Possession: Ind27:22,Cle32:38


RUSHING--Indianapolis, James 15-67. Cleveland, Green 21-86, White 2-7, Jackson 2-6, Northcutt 1-(minus 1).

PASSING--Indianapolis, Manning 27-43-2-211. Cleveland, Holcomb 20-29-2-182.

RECEIVING--Indianapolis, Harrison 9-44, James 5-29, Wayne 3-39, Pollard 3-28, Walters 3-27, R.Williams 2-19, Clark 1-18, Davenport 1-7. Cleveland, Northcutt 5-57, White 4-19, K.Johnson 3-26, Green 3-19, Heiden 2-22, AndreDavis 1-18, Morgan 1-14, Shea 1-7.