Watson left the game in the first quarter and did not return after he was pushed to the ground following an incomplete pass with the back of his head appearing to hit the turf. The Browns QB lied on his back for a moment, favoring his right shoulder upon getting up and immediately made a trip to the blue medical tent.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters after the game that it was his decision to keep Watson on the sideline despite him being cleared after undergoing an evaluation for a concussion.
"I just did not want to put him back out there," Stefanski said. "I wanted to protect our franchise quarterback."
Watson told reporters that he wanted to go back in the game as a "competitor" but he understood the decision.
"I want to go out there and try to help the team as much as possible. Go out there and play and perform and compete," Watson said, via BrownsZone.com. "The decision was best for the team. They felt that was the best. PJ [Walker] did a great job of finishing the game."
Sunday marked Watson's first game back after being sidelined for multiple weeks due to a right shoulder injury. He completed one pass for 5 yards (five attempts) and threw one interception before exiting Sunday's game out of precaution.
Stefanski added that Watson is expected to start next week's game in Seattle.
"He's our starter in Seattle," Stefanski said. "It will always be my decision to protect our players."
PJ Walker entered the game for Watson when the Browns defense recovered a fumble three plays into the Colts' ensuing possession following Watson's exit. With Cleveland down, 14-7, Walker proceeded to lead the Browns on a five-play, 36-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 14.
It was then the Browns announced Watson was cleared, but he remained on the sideline with Walker under center with no further explanation given from the team to explain Watson's absence.
Walker helped take advantage of a Browns defense that was dominant in the early going, which resulted in Cleveland scoring a season-high 39 points. The veteran QB completed 15 of 32 passes for 178 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, but was instrumental in a 12-play, 80-yard game-winning drive that put the Browns ahead with 19 seconds to play.