INDIANAPOLIS - After last week's debacle in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns need a bit of good fortune.
They'll get exactly that today when they face the Colts here at Lucas Oil Stadium. If facing the Colts without quarterback Peyton Manning isn't good luck, then what is?
Manning is out indefinitely after undergoing a cervical neck fusion. The procedure was the third surgery performed on Manning in the last 19 months. The Colts are hopeful that he'll return later this season.
In search of a replacement, the Colts enticed Kerry Collins out of retirement. Collins reached the highs and lows during the previous 16 seasons, but he's never been on Manning's level of performance.
"We've obviously had to make some adjustments," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "I think our guys have done a good job in terms of adapting. The big thing we have to do from now on is obviously improve.
"Peyton has always been a big part of what we do. I think our guys have understood what's going on and he won't be with us for quite some time. We have to keep moving ahead and try to find a way to get better."
The debate over the importance of one player to a team includes a select few players, and Manning is definitely among them.
New England quarterback Tom Brady would be up there, as would a few other notable quarterbacks.
Manning's absence was evident last Sunday in a 34-7 loss to the Houston Texans. Collins was 16-of-31 for 197 yards and one touchdown, which are pedestrian numbers in comparison to a normal day of work for Manning. It didn't help that the Colts managed just 64 rushing yards.
"You never know, they (the Patriots) lost Brady a couple years ago and they came back with some other guys you never heard of and they played pretty well," Browns linebacker Scott Fujita said. "Kerry Collins is a pro. He's been in the league for a long time for good reasons. I expect them to rebound really well in week two. With a new guy at the head now, they have to come together, and they only had a week or two to do that."
The Browns are also looking to rebound after falling to the Bengals, 27-17. The play that doomed the Browns was a quick-snap call that caught the defense napping and resulted in a 41-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur stressed the 24-hour rule this week, which is to say the players put the bad memory of that game behind them as quickly as possible.
"I'm trying to move on, and I think we all have," Shurmur said. "I think that's what practice and preparation on the next opponent brings. That's the beauty of the NFL in my opinion. That's where you've got to be pretty strong mentally. You've got to be able to forget what happens Sunday, good or bad, and move on."
Browns quarterback Colt McCoy was inconsistent against the Bengals. He found a groove in the second and third quarters as the Browns rallied from a 13-0 deficit to take a 17-13 lead on touchdown passes to tight ends Ben Watson and Evan Moore. Things didn't go as well in the fourth quarter.
"I think across the board we've got a lot of room for improvement," McCoy said. "We've learned a lot from that first game. After looking at it, getting that bad taste out of your mouth and coming out here and starting to prepare for Indianapolis, you know we'll be okay."
The Browns' offensive line had some protection problems that need to be corrected against a strong Colts' pass rush. The best way to do that is to establish a consistent ground game.
"Everybody wants the ball more, but the game dictates a lot and when you get down in the fourth quarter you have to throw the ball more and save the clock," running back Peyton Hillis said. "For us as an offense we have to go out there, keep the ball in our hands and give the defense a rest. You have to stay in those second-and-short to medium-range areas."
Sometimes that's easier said than done.