INDIANAPOLIS –Trying to regain the same starting form with which the offensive line began the season, two important pieces rejoined the fold Sunday afternoon as tackle Anthony Castonzo and guard Ryan Diem were back in the starting lineup.
For Diem, it was only was the only second time the 11-year veteran had seen the field in 2011 since injuring his ankle against the Cleveland Browns in week two of the season.
"(It's been) one of those situations where you hate to see the guys kind of struggle through a few games when you can't participate," Diem said. "You get back in there and you're excited. It was good to get back out there."
Playing right guard for the first time since 2002, Diem said he has been pleased with the communication along the offensive line despite nine different players starting this season.
"I think we've done a pretty good job with that," Diem said of the communication issue. "It's one of those cases where you hate to see so many different people in the lineup throughout the year due to injuries or whatever. I think guys have stepped up and played pretty well who haven't been here very long. I'm happy about that. There hasn't been a major drop off. Obviously, we aren't playing to a high enough level right now but we will go see what's wrong with it and make our corrections."
Protecting the blind side of quarterback Curtis Painter on Sunday was 2011 first-round draft pick Anthony Castonzo. Having been sidelined since week four, Castonzo did not allow a sack in his return to the lineup. Castonzo suffered an ankle injury early in the game at Tampa Bay.
Durability never has been an issue for the Boston College product, who set a school record with 54 career starts in his four-year career. He will sit down Monday and watch the Atlanta game film and Castonzo said he was pleased with his ability to play a full 60 minutes.
"I already know what I'm going to see when I watch it," Castonzo said. "They (the coaches) made sure that I was well-conditioned before I was thrown back into things."
Without starting running back Joseph Addai on Sunday, the Colts leaned on Donald Brown for the bulk of its groundwork.
Brown finished the game with 70 yards on 16 carries, the second-highest single-game rushing total of his career. His 54 yards rushing in the first half surpassed his season high, but Brown knows he needs to do more in order to help the Colts get their first win.
"I didn't get enough done to help us out," Brown said. "We just have to fix the little things, finish plays, finish drives and finish games."
Throughout the first nine games of the 2011 season, Addai and rookie running back Delone Carter have paced the rushing attack but in the past few weeks Brown has begun to assert himself in the Colts backfield.
"I feel like we gave him a chance to hit some seams and find some creases, and he did a good job of finding those and taking advantage of it," Diem said.
Sunday's game against the Falcons marked the 190th career game in a Colts uniform for center Jeff Saturday, which is tied for fifth in franchise history with Marvin Harrison. Saturday is one of 13 Colts players who has participated in more than 100 career victories. Saturday has played in 130 career victories, which ranks third in franchise history behind quarterbacks Peyton Manning (141) and John Unitas (130). On Sunday, Saturday was playing against the team from his hometown area of Atlanta.
Late in the fourth quarter, offensive guard Mike Pollak got a couple of series at center. Pollak also returned to the lineup Sunday after missing the Tennessee game last week with a hamstring injury.
"Center is a very natural position for me," Pollak said. "I played it in college and it's something I work on a little bit during the week. I'm fresh at all three positions so whenever I need to go in, I'm there. It's just a more mental position. I feel really comfortable. It's second nature to me."
Versatility has always been a trademark for the Colts offensive line as Saturday is the only player on the unit to start and play at one position in 2011.
"Especially when you have a lot of injuries like we have had this year," Pollak said of the importance of versatility. "If some guy goes down you're not worried about putting in someone that hasn't been in there. We can kind of shuffle around."
Early turnovers and the inability to sustain drives bogged down the Colts offense Sunday. Following the game, veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne addressed the issue on why this team will continue to fight each week even with a sub .500 won-loss record.
"Because we are grown men, we are professionals," Wayne said. "Who wants to continue to get their head beat in? We've got enough leadership, enough veterans on this team to preach the word to young guys."
One area of definite achievement Sunday was punter Pat McAfee, who had nine punts for a 50.1 average, including a 45.8 net average and two kicks inside the 20-yard line. It was a 53-yard second-quarter McAfee punt that went out at the Atlanta one-yard line that set up the scoring interception by Jerraud Powers. It marked the fourth time this season McAfee has exceeded a 50.0-yard average.