Philip Rivers' turnovers responsible for nine points in Colts' loss

If the Indianapolis Colts were going to lose games this season, it wasn’t supposed to be because of quarterback Philip Rivers too many times.

That was the thought, at least.

Rivers, for the second time this season, played a significant role in a loss for the Colts. Indianapolis’ $25-million quarterback was personally responsible for nine points in their nine-point loss, 32-23, to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

The Colts brought Rivers to Indianapolis with the anticipation that his experience and leadership would only help them.

It turns out that Rivers’ turnover problems were packed up in Los Angeles and transported with him to Indianapolis. He threw two more interceptions to give him five on the season, and he also was responsible for a safety.

Rivers’ first interception Sunday came when he completely locked in on receiver T.Y. Hilton, which allowed Browns safety Ronnie Harrison II to easily jump the route and return the interception 47 yards for the touchdown.

That was the 25th interception returned for a touchdown in Rivers’ 17-yard NFL career.

Things only got worse for Rivers after that. He was called for intentional grounding in the end zone when threw the ball out of bounds to avoid being sacked by Browns defensive Myles Garrett. Nyheim Hines put Rivers and the offense in a tough position when he fair caught a punt on their own 4-yard line. That was only fifth fair catch of a punt inside the 5-yard line in the NFL in the past two seasons.

Later, Rivers, trying to avoid a rush, stepped up in the pocket and tried to force a throw to tight end Mo Alie-Cox in the middle of the field. Rivers never saw Browns safety Sheldrick Redwine, who intercepted Rivers on the play.

The Colts can handle mistakes by their rookies and younger players. Having Rivers continue to make those kind of mistakes is inexcusable, especially if they expect to make the playoffs.

Rivers finished the game 21-of-33 for 243 yards and no touchdown passes.

Troubling trend: The final result said the Colts defense intercepted Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield twice and had a sack against him.

But it’s not simply about the stats all the time.

Sunday was a significant test for the Colts defense. They were no longer facing the likes of the Jaguars, Jets or Bears, teams whose offenses have struggled this season. The Colts, who went into Sunday with the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense, were facing a team with a legitimate offense in the Browns. Cleveland went into Sunday with the league’s top rushing offense and a passing threat that featured receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.

The Colts didn’t have All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (groin), but that’s still no excuse for not forcing the Browns to punt until the fourth quarter or for giving up 284 yards of offense in the first half after giving up just 269 yards in four quarters to the Bears the previous week.

Cleveland finished with 385 yards and was 10-of-17 on third down. Sunday was just the first of several more tests the Colts will deal with this season. They still have Baltimore (4-1), Green Bay (4-0), Pittsburgh (4-0) and two games against Tennessee (3-0) on the schedule this season.

If Sunday was a contender-or-pretender contest for the Colts defense, they looked more like pretenders against the Browns.

Silver lining: Colts rookie Isaiah Rodgers helped soften the blow of Rivers' pick-six interception when he returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown.

Rodgers started along the right side where he toed the sideline in front of his teammates before he stopped to elude a Cleveland defender near midfield and cut back to the left, where he ran the rest of the way untouched into the end zone.

That was the Colts' first kickoff return for a touchdown since Jordan Todman returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against Green Bay in Week 9 of the 2016 season.