CARTER MAKES FIRST CAREER NFL START –On October 9 against Kansas City, rookie running back Delone Carter had his first career rushing touchdown. Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals it was another milestone for Carter when he made his first career start.
With Joseph Addai missing his first game of the season due to a hamstring injury, Carter and Donald Brown shared the load in the backfield by combining to average 4.1 yards a carry against the top-rated defense in the NFL.
The Colts had the running game going early on Sunday as they outrushed the Bengals, 74-37, in the first half. Six of the club's eight first downs in the opening half came on the ground.
On the Colts' first play from scrimmage, Carter ran for nine yards, then followed with a three-yard rush to convert a first down. He saw extensive action on the first two offensive series. At the end of the first quarter, Carter had 26 yards on eight rushes.
The third series marked the first time Brown saw action in the backfield against the Bengals, and the 2009 first-round draft pick made the most of his carries. The possession started with an eight-yard pass from Curtis Painter to Dallas Clark. Brown picked up a yard on his first attempt, then Carter converted third-down with a three-yard burst.
Painter and wide receiver Pierre Garcon hooked up for three straight completions, and it gave the Colts a first-and-10 from the Bengals' 27-yard line.
Brown ripped off a nine-yard gain and on the next play, he went around the right side for 18 yards and the Colts' first touchdown. The score tied the game, 7-7, and marked the first time Brown had scored since December 19, 2010 against Jacksonville.
After leading the Colts with 4.8 yards a carry against Kansas City in week five, Brown topped the club at Cincinnati with a 7.0 average. He gained 35 yards on five rushes.
CLARK BOUNCES BACK –For the past eight seasons, tight end Dallas Clark has been a staple in the Colts offense.
The Pro Bowl receiver routinely has made important catches, and he never been one to back down from passes over the middle. In fact, he has thrived in that part of the field.
After uneven moments at brief points this season, Clark again showed on Sunday why he is one of the most prolific players at his position, as well as being one of the most noteworthy tight ends in Colts history.
Clark finished the game with six catches for 53 yards, both season highs, but the significance of his grabs came during the Colts' second-half touchdown drive.
On a second-and-eight from the Colts 40-yard line, Clark made an over-the-shoulder sideline catch for 17 yards.
Four plays later, it was Painter to Clark again as the tight end hauled in a five-yard pass over the middle.
Seconds later, a pass interference penalty gave the Colts a first-and-goal from the one-yard line. Painter was stopped on back-to-back quarterback sneaks, and the club was faced with third-and- goal situation with the clock ticking below 10 minutes and the club trailing by 10 points.
From an offensive formation with no wide receivers, Painter executed a play-action fake and Clark released into the end zone. An unguarded Clark made a spectacular one-handed catch and got his feet in bounds for his second touchdown of the season. The touchdown was reminiscent of the one he made in Baltimore in 2009, one of the signature receptions of his career.
This marked only the third start of Painter's three-year NFL career, but the catch by Clark is something he has seen before.
"I've seen that many times in practice," Painter said. "He made a heck of a play there, and obviously it was a good bounce back."
The score finished off a 10-play 74-yard drive and the cut the lead to three points with just more than nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Consistency and longevity in the NFL outweighs any small stretch and Painter knows what to expect from his Pro Bowl tight end.
"He's been making plays here for certainly a lot longer than I have been here," Painter said. "He will continue to as well. He will continue to bounce back like he did today."
MUIR AND DIEM MAKE THEIR RESPECTIVE RETURNS –Two linemen made different returns to the Colts lineup Sunday afternoon.
Indianapolis welcomed back defensive tackle Dan Muir last Tuesday when he was signed to fill an injury-depleted defensive line.
Muir had started the two previous seasons for the Colts and with defensive tackles Eric Foster and Drake Nevis out with injuries, Indianapolis made the call to the familiar face.
Defensive tackles Antonio Johnson and Fili Moala started at Cincinnati, but Muir led all linemen with three tackles on Sunday.
In 2009, Muir led the defensive line with 66 tackles and started 24 of 30 games for the Colts the last two seasons.
On the other side of the football, offensive tackle Ryan Diem returned to the starting lineup after a three-week absence due to injury.
Diem started the first two weeks at right guard but other injuries along the offensive line put the 11-year pro back to his normal right tackle position. Diem started at right tackle for the club from 2003-10. He was a regular starter at right guard in 2001 and 2002.
The middle of the offensive line stayed the same for the fourth straight game with left guard Joe Reitz, center Jeff Saturday and right guard Mike Pollak. For the second straight game Jeff Linkenbach occupied Painter's blind side at left tackle.
On Brown's 18-yard scoring run, he first tried the middle of the line before bouncing the play outside. Brown was able to sweep untouched on the play after going around the right side.