INDIANAPOLIS – Curtis Painter had a second straight solid performance in starting at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.
Painter completed 15-of-27 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns and even though the club eventually fell at home to Kansas City, 28-24, he can hold his head high. Head Coach Jim Caldwell concurred.
"Curtis is our starter right now. He's the guy who has done well," said Caldwell. "I think if you look at that performance he had today, I'm not certain why there's a question at this point in time. He's our starter. He's performed well. He's getting better every week. I think he did a tremendous job today."
For the second straight game, Painter directed a scoring drive to open the game. For the second straight game, he led the club to a double-digit lead against a talented defense. The third-year pro was playing in his sixth career game and making his second-ever start. Though a victory could not be shown for it, Caldwell has confidence going forward.
"He's doing a good, and he's not turning it over," said Caldwell. "He's doing a great job of getting the checks done at the line of scrimmage. Obviously, he threw the ball well today. Whatever the numbers say, obviously he probably did a little better because he had a few drops out there that certainly added to the situation (Kansas City comeback)."
Painter directed Indianapolis to a 17-0 first-half lead on the Chiefs. He zipped the Colts 80 yards in 12 plays to start the game, teaming with wide receiver Pierre Garcon on a six-yard touchdown pass 7:24 into the contest. He was five-for-five for 66 yards on the first drive as the club eased ahead.
Last week, Painter directed a field goal drive to start the Tampa Bay game. He helped the club jump to a 10-0 lead against the Buccaneers, and he matched that again on the club's third drive against the Chiefs when he moved Indianapolis 45 yards for a 53-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri early in the second quarter.
On the drive, Painter hit wide receiver Reggie Wayne for 11 yards on third-and-10 from his 20-yard line, then found Garcon for 37 yards on the ensuing play to put Indianapolis on the Kansas City 32-yard line. Vinatieri converted four plays later.
Painter helped the club open a 17-0 cushion on his next offensive snap, finding Garcon behind the Chiefs' defense for a 67-yard scoring strike with 11:13 left in the second quarter.
Painter teamed with Garcon on 87- and 59-yard scoring plays last week off shorter tosses, and he was pleased to connect twice more Sunday.
"He's (Garcon) a guy who makes tremendous plays," said Painter. "Last week he made a couple plays off short passes and made some big plays. Today he made one (a big play) to score on. We've had some big plays."
Painter was not through after the pass to Garcon. He guided Indianapolis 80 yards on eight plays near the end of the half. Rookie running back Delone Carter, subbing for an injured Joseph Addai, burst across from three yards out to give the Colts a 24-7 lead with 1:09 left in the half. Kansas City would score just before the gun, but Painter was 12-of-17 for 237 yards and two scores in the first two periods, directing the club to 291 net yards and 13 first downs.
Painter had a full week of practice preparation prior to the game with veteran Kerry Collins still being unable to practice after suffering symptoms related to a concussion following a hit against Pittsburgh three games ago. His work during the week was uninterrupted, and Caldwell believes that was a benefit in Painter's preparation.
"This is one of the first times he's ever had a complete week to prepare without sharing snaps (in practice) with anyone," said Caldwell. "I think you can see the difference. He just keeps getting better. Curtis is playing well right now."
While Painter appreciated the club's start against Kansas City, he knows finishing in the second half is essential.
"We made some great plays in the first half," said Painter. "We were moving the ball well. The second half, we didn't quite finish drives. We probably weren't as good on third downs as we were in the first half. Just those little details (hurt in the second half)."
Kansas City was able to control the ball for 33:07 of the game, including 12:12 of the third quarter and 9:03 of the final period. The Chiefs rushed for 194 yards after having 67 at intermission. Kansas City had 17 of its 26 first downs in the second half and scored on drives of 93 and 54 yards.
Indianapolis was competing with an offensive line that had Jeff Linkenbach starting at left tackle after opening the first four games on the right side. His shift came after injuries to tackles Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana. Starting for Linkenbach on the right side was Quinn Ojinnaka, a free agent who signed with the club on Wednesday. Adding to the challenge, Addai left the game early with a hamstring injury, and he was replaced by Carter and Donald Brown. The club battled, according to Painter.
"I think they (the linemen) hung in there together. We had some new guys in there, one guy in particular," said Painter. "All in all, they did a decent job. We just couldn't keep it going. The first half, I thought we did pretty well all across the board offensively. The second half, we just got stalled a little bit. The guys up front hung in there. Any time you lose a guy (Addai) like that, a guy who knows what he's doing and has been around a little bit, it hurts. The guys behind him did a great job. Donald (Brown) and Delone (Carter) came in and did great jobs. I thought out offensive line did a good job in a pretty tough situation. I think we still ran the ball pretty well without Joe."
Painter had words of praise for his line, a unit that has functioned gamely and with grit during a difficult start to the season.
"They did a heck of a job. I can't remember getting hit, maybe once," said Painter. "For a group going through all the adversity with the injuries, I thought they did a great job of coming in (and playing) against a pretty good defensive line."
Many Colts veterans have voiced support for Painter and his play. One such player was Painter's frequent touchdown target, Garcon.
"Curtis has been around for a long time," said Garcon. "He's been in this offense and he knows everything. He knows the audibles, what has to be done at the line of scrimmage to get us in good plays. We're very confident with him back there calling the shots. He's definitely played well the last couple of weeks. He's getting better as every practice and week goes on. The team is getting more confident in him and he's getting confident, too."
As for Painter, he keeps growing well with the team, and his confidence is evident.
"I felt confident. I thought we had a really good week of practice," said Painter. "Any time you come into a game well prepared like that, you have confidence. We did a good job of getting into rhythm at the beginning of the game. We made some plays. (When) you're making plays and being successful, it gives you a little confidence."
Now that he has been identified officially as the starter, his approach will remain the same.
"The last couple of weeks with Kerry (Collins) being banged up, there's been an added emphasis on being ready, no matter what the situation is," said Painter. "I've taken that approach the last couple of weeks and that won't change this coming week, no matter what."