(CBS) - The Colts lost, but at least Curtis Painter had a good game. That's about the only thing the Indianapolis can take away from their 24-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Painter made smart decisions in his first start at quarterback, playing the kind of reliable, mistake-free football that the Colts are going to have to cling to as they continue to mourn the absence of Peyton Manning.
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.)
Painter has been with the Colts since 2009, dutifully serving behind Manning, but generally not doing a whole lot more than offering high fives on the sidelines as Peyton leads the team. With the future hall-of-famer possibly out for the season, it's finally Painters time to step up.
CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson sums it up: "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.