CLEVELAND >> Andrew Luck came through when it mattered most.
Bottled up all afternoon by Cleveland’s defense, Luck threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton with 32 seconds left, rallying the Indianapolis Colts to a 25-24 win on Sunday over the Browns.
Luck was contained by the Browns until the final minutes, when he directed the Colts (9-4) on a winning 90-yard drive.
But before Luck connected with Hilton, Colts running back Daniel Herron picked up 2 yards on critical fourth down to keep the drive going. Luck, who threw two interceptions and spent the day being harassed by an energized Browns defense, then fired his second TD pass to Hilton.
The Colts trailed 21-7 in the third quarter, but stormed back behind Luck, who finished 24 of 53 for 294 yards.
The Browns (7-6) got two defensive touchdowns, but Cleveland’s offense, led by struggling quarterback Brian Hoyer, couldn’t do enough to keep the team’s playoff hopes from fading.
Hoyer’s hold on his starting job over rookie Johnny Manziel has never been more tenuous. Hoyer completed 14 of 31 passes for 140 yards, but Cleveland’s offense picked up just three first downs in the second half.
Down 24-19, Luck and the Colts got the ball at their 10-yard line with 3:46 remaining. Luck completed a 27-yard pass to rookie Donte Moncrief on third down, and the Colts got a big chunk of yardage when cornerback Buster Skrine was called for interference.
Herron, though, made the drive’s biggest play. On fourth down, 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.
Adam Vinatieri kicked a pair of field goals for Indianapolis, which trailed by 14 after rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert returned an interception of Luck 23 yards for a touchdown. Linebacker Craig Robertson had recovered a fumble by Luck in the end zone for Cleveland’s first TD.
The Colts were in real trouble. Luck saved them again.
He moved Indianapolis into position for Vinatieri’s 51-yard field goal to make it 21-10. After Cleveland’s offense went three-and-out, Luck connected with Hilton on a 42-yard pass to make it 21-16.
The Colts’ 2-point conversion attempt was intercepted by safety Jim Leonhard, but the Browns gave the ball right back with another unproductive series. Vinatieri’s 33-yard field got the Colts within two, but the Browns went up 24-19 on Billy Cundiff’s 39-yarder with 8:34 left.
Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell scored on a 9-yard run with 1:14 left in the half, completing a 77-yard drive that may have saved Hoyer from being benched in the second half.
Hoyer had badly overthrown wide-open Taylor Gabriel on the second play of the drive, triggering more boos and louder cries for Manziel. Hoyer bounced back on the next play, rifling a 27-yard pass over the middle to Travis Benjamin.
Hoyer, who had thrown an interception in the end zone earlier, celebrated Crowell’s score with a fist pump, perhaps realizing he may have held off Manziel again.
Cleveland’s defense manhandled the NFL’s top offense in the first half, holding the Colts to 117 total yards and harassing Luck on nearly every throw. Luck went 9 of 22 for 86 yards before halftime, was sacked once, had a ball deflected and a few others dropped.