With the season heading south rapidly for the Indianapolis Colts, Curtis Painter was thrown right into the Monday Night fire in Tampa with a bunch of young, sack-hungry Buccaneer linemen eyeballing him with bad intentions.
With Peyton Manning in the coaches box and Kerry Collins on the mend, this one was all Painter's.
It was about time.
This one would not go well for the Colts—pretty much the way things haven't gone well for them the first three weeks. But the truth is that Painter made his presence felt. He burned the Bucs badly twice and generally gave a good accounting of himself.
He got his team in the lead early (without the benefit of a running attack) and kept them in it late (without the benefit of a running attack).
There was nothing Painter could do late in the game. He was on the sidelines with the rest of the offense watching the Beastly Buccaneer—LeGarrette Blount—bash, bull and bruise his way through the tiring Indy defense.
Blount did a number on them late in the action, and Tampa Bay's monster quarterback, Josh Freeman, got his licks in, too.
The 24-17 final outcome was nothing Painter should hang his head over. He made two of the night's biggest splash plays with an 87-yard hookup to Pierre Garcon and, if that wasn't enough, he burned Tampa Bay with another 59-yarder to Garcon.
"Painter to Pierre" has a nice sound for Indy.
The 87-yarder actually moved Painter past Peyton in the record books—it was a yard longer of a TD pass than anything Manning had come up with in his Hall of Fame career.
Painter's numbers weren't great, only 13-of-30 for 281 and that pair of scores, but Tampa Bay got wise to Indy, shut down the run and focused on the young guy. The Bucs blitzed the horseshoe off Painter's helmet. He held up well despite taking four sacks.
Things like that happen when the other guys realize you have no running game.
Going into next week's game against the Chiefs, Painter has certainly earned another start. He is their best option right now.
Painter also deserves a running game. That would go a long way to help the young guy.
The Colts organization needs to face the reality that Manning won't play this year, the season will be long lost by the time he can even start practicing.
As for Collins, he needs his own radio show somewhere and should leave the signal calling to the young guy.
These Colts don't have much going for them, so they simply need to see how Curtis Painter develops.
It's the only thing that makes sense when you're 0-4.