|Painter impresses in first NFL start. (US PRESSWIRE)|
Maybe Reggie Wayne was on to something back in August when, after the Colts signed Kerry Collins out of retirement to keep Curtis Painter off the field, said “We don't even know [Collins], we ain't vanilla, man, we ain't no simple offense. So for him to can come in here and be the starter, I don't see it. I think that's a step back."
The implication wasn't that Collins couldn't be a capable backup in Peyton Manning's absence, just that his lack of familiarity with Indy's offense didn't make him a more attractive option than Painter, who has been with the team since 2009. We got a glimpse of that last Sunday when Painter, in relief of an injured Collins, was serviceable against the Steelers.
Facing the Buccaneers on Monday, he was much more than that, calling audibles at the line, changing protections, and running the no-huddle, something Indy hadn't been able to do with Collins under center.
In his first NFL start, Painter completed 13 of 30 passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and more importantly, no interceptions. (Though he did have one fumble, on a sack, which isn't surprising given that he was playing behind a decimated offensive line. Indy lost rookie left tackles Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana during the game.)
In the second quarter, Painter hit Pierre Garcon on a nifty sideline route for an 87-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead. (It was the longest first career touchdown pass since Charlie Batch tossed a 98-yarder in 1998. More impressive: it was longer than any of Peyton Manning's regular-season touchdowns.)
But Painter wasn't done. With the Colts trailing 17-10 in the third quarter, he hit Garcon again, this time for a 59-yard score. But it still wasn't enough; the Bucs took the lead in the fourth quarter and blitzed Painter silly for the rest of the night. When it was over, Indy limped out of Tampa with a 24-17 loss.
This is what happens when you're without your franchise quarterback and missing key players on both sides of the ball.
So, no, it wasn't always pretty but let's be honest: Painter exceeded everybody's expectations, and that's a positive for a Colts team desperately in need of some good news. Unfortunately, there are no moral victories in the NFL, and a quarter of the way through the season Indy is 0-4.
|We would like to take this opportunity to point out the many wig-tastic looks of Curtis Painter. (Getty Images)|
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