The Colts (0-2), coming off a 34-7 setback at Houston last week, have lost two straight to start a season for the first time since Peyton Manning's rookie year of 1998. With Manning learning the pro game, that Colts team finished 3-13. Without the now four-time league MVP because of a neck injury, the Colts could be in for another dismal year.
Kerry Collins again started under center for the Colts and completed 19-of-38 passes for 191 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Indianapolis managed just four field goals until a late touchdown with the outcome already decided.
"You certainly can't pin it all on one person at one time, this is a team game," Colts head coach Jim Caldwell said when asked about his commitment to Collins. "We have to work a little bit on everything to make that determination, but he made some progress."
Hillis ran for 94 yards on 27 carries and also caught four passes for 23 yards for the Browns (1-1), who were coming off a 27-17 loss to the Bengals in their opener. McCoy connected on 22-of-32 passes for 211 yards and was not picked off Sunday, as the Browns halted a five-game slide against the Colts.
The Colts took the opening kickoff and marched 67 yards in 10 plays, settling for a 39-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri, then tacked on a 27-yard Vinatieri kick in the opening minute of the second quarter to finish another 10-play set.
Josh Cribbs followed with a 52-yard kickoff return to set the Browns up at their own 45. They quickly faced 4th-and-1, but McCoy managed to pick up the first down on a sneak and soon after put his team on the board. He scrambled to buy time on a 3rd-and-12, then found Evan Moore in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard score and 7-6 edge.
The Colts regained the lead moments later on a 52-yard Vinatieri field goal, but the Browns still had just under three minutes left before the break and drove 80 yards on 10 plays for another touchdown. Two third-down conversions aided the march, including a 25-yard catch-and-run by Cribbs, before a 28-yard connection with Mohamed Massaquoi set up a first down at the one. After officials overturned Hillis' first TD run, he rammed it right back into the end zone on the next play for a 14-9 lead with 15 seconds left in the half.
Hillis fumbled on Cleveland's first possession of the third quarter, giving the Colts the ball at their own 40, but once again they could manage only a field goal from Vinatieri. The 36-yard kick pulled the Colts within two.
Collins was intercepted on the first play of the fourth quarter and the Browns turned it into a 20-yard Phil Dawson field goal for a 17-12 advantage. The Colts followed with a pair of threes-and-out, and the second punt was returned 43 yards by Cribbs to set up a first down at the Indianapolis 28.
It took just three plays for the Browns to find the end zone, as Hillis broke free for a 24-yard touchdown run to make it 24-12 with just under four minutes remaining.
Collins then fumbled on the ensuing Indianapolis possession and Dawson added a 23-yard field goal before the Colts finally found the end zone in the final minute with a six-yard scoring toss from Collins to Dallas Clark.
"I think today gave a lot of confidence to a lot of the guys," Hillis said. "It's good to pull that one out on the road and winning a good game like that."
The Colts ran for 109 yards, including 64 from Joseph Addai and 46 from rookie Delone Carter...Reggie Wayne had four catches for 66 yards in defeat. He is two shy of 800 career receptions...Clark had four catches and now has 401 in his career...Cribbs surpassed Desmond Howard for seventh all-time in kick return yards.