Andrew Luck was indecisive, unsteady and inaccurate. For 57 minutes, he looked nothing like a franchise quarterback or one of the NFL's biggest stars.
Given a final chance by the Browns, Luck redeemed himself and rescued the Colts.
Bottled up all afternoon by Cleveland's swarming defense, Luck threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton with 32 seconds left, rallying Indianapolis to a 25-24 win yesterday.
"He just had that fire in his eyes," Colts running back Daniel Herron said.
Luck helped the Browns build a 14-point lead with his fumble that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, and by throwing an interception returned by rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert for a TD. Starting at his 10 with 3:46 left, Luck took the Colts (9-4) on an 11-play, 90-yard drive.
"Some real bonehead mistakes," Luck said. "Can't do that, but it feels good to win on the road, in this fashion against a very good team."
Before Luck, who threw two picks and was sacked three times, connected on his second TD pass to Hilton, Herron picked up 2 yards on a critical fourth down to keep the drive going. Luck finished with 294 yards passing, picking up 208 in the second half.
The Browns (7-6) got two defensive TDs, but Cleveland's offense, led by struggling quarterback Brian Hoyer, couldn't do enough to keep the team's playoff hopes from fading. The Browns picked up only three first downs after halftime and missed a chance to host Cincinnati next week with the AFC North lead on the line.
"It's a kick in the gut," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "It's an opportunity that we let go. We know our margin for error is now zero, that we've got to win our last three or we're done."
Hoyer's hold on his starting job over rookie Johnny Manziel has never been more tenuous. He completed 14 of 31 passes for 140 yards and threw two interceptions.
"I have to play better," Hoyer said.
Down 24-19 and time running out, Luck completed a 27-yard pass to rookie Donte Moncrief on third down, and the Colts got 35 yards when Browns cornerback Buster Skrine was called for interference on the next play.
Herron, though, made the drive's biggest play. On fourth down at the 3, he ran right and was initially stopped at the line. But Herron spun away from the pile and cut inside safety Donte Whitner for the first down.
"That was all Boom Herron right there," Luck said. "That was a great run and probably one of the best half-a-yard runs I've ever seen in my life."