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Colts react to controversial penalties vs. Browns

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - OCTOBER 22: Pierre Strong Jr. #20 of the Cleveland Browns runs with the ball against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Colts fans had started to celebrate.

The team was leading 38-33 inside the final minute of the fourth quarter with the Cleveland Browns facing a third down deep in Colts territory.

Colts linebacker E.J. Speed sacked Browns quarterback P.J. Walker. Walker fumbled and the ball was recovered by Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. That play would have essentially ended the game.

But the officials threw a flag on the play, calling Colts cornerback Darrell Baker Jr. with an illegal contact penalty, giving the Browns a first down.

News 8 Sports’ Andrew Chernoff asked Baker Jr. about that specific penalty in the locker room after the game.

“I saw him (wide receiver Amari Cooper) on the route,” Baker Jr. said. ” He extends his arm, so I extend my arm as well, because I’m not just going to let him push me so he can just catch the ball. As long as I’m playing the ball, that’s within the rules, and that should always be fair, but you know, when you get a bad call like that, there’s really nothing else you can do better. What else am I supposed to do? “

On the very next play, Baker was called for pass interference, on a pass that some fans believe was uncatchable. The penalty moved the Browns to the Indianapolis one-yard line.

“I got to go back and look at it,” Colts head coach Shane Steichen said. “Said there was illegal contact there. I got to go look at it. I didn’t see it from our sidelines.”

The Browns would score the game-winning touchdown a handful of plays later, on a one-yard run from running back Kareem Hunt.

That score proved to be the difference as the Browns (4-2) topped the Colts (3-4) by a final of 39-38.

“On the first one (penalty), I didn’t see much contact at all,” Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II said. “Especially at the end of the game, you got to let us play – got to let us play in those situations, but I told DJ (Darrell Baker Jr.) after the game, this is what we sign up for. That is what we sign up for. If we leave the game in the hands of the guys who control the game, we can’t expect them to make the right call every single time.”

Indianapolis will hope to snap its current two-game losing streak next Sunday when it hosts the New Orleans Saints (3-4) at 1 p.m.