As originally published here.
Time: Monday, October 3, 8:30 p.m. ET
High: 85/Low: 69
Rain Chance: 0%
The last time the Indianapolis Colts (0-3) were 0-4, quarterback Peyton Manning was a rookie. The Colts will try to avoid that record Monday night when they travel to Raymond James Stadium to face the Buccaneers (2-1). The Colts lost a close contest at home last week against Pittsburgh 23-20 on a 38-yard field goal from Shaun Suisham with just four seconds left to play.
The Colts have a quarterback controversy since current starter Kerry Collins is still suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Colts may tap Curtis Painter to start if Collins isn’t ready. They also signed quarterback Dan Orlovsky on Wednesday since Manning isn’t expected to return until late in the year if at all in recovering from neck surgery.
Tampa Bay is coming off an emotional home win against the Atlanta Falcons, a team they haven’t beaten in the last five tries. The defense provided key turnovers sacking Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan three times and producing three turnovers.
Painter completed 5 passes on 11 attempts for 60 yards in relief of Collins. Collins completed 13 passes out of 29 attempts for 93 yards. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman completed 22 passes out of 32 attempts for 180 yards and two interceptions against Atlanta.
I’m going to have to go with the stable hand on this on in Josh Freeman because while Manning’s tutorage helped Painter nearly squeeze a win from the visiting Steelers, Freeman’s intangibles in his leadership will be too much for the Colts defense. Freeman’s been efficient so far this year completing under 70 percent of his passes for 682 yards and two touchdowns this season. Collins completed under 50 percent of his passes for 481 yards and two touchdowns.
Through three games, Colts running back Joseph Addai received the bulk of the touches. Granted playing from behind, sort of limits those carries. Addai averaged under five yards per carry. He’s carried the ball 39 times for 189 yards and one score. Addai should see more action if Painter starts on Monday.
After three starts, the Bucs running attack was sporadic at best. LeGarrette Blount has carried the ball 42 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Most of the carries came against Atlanta where he ran for 81 yards from 24 carries and no scores. The second leading rusher isn’t backup running back Earnest Graham, but rather Freeman with 17 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Until last week, both defenses have struggled against the run. Expect Blount to receive more production from the setup Freeman gives him.
Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark could give the Bucs defense fits if their front line doesn’t provide enough pressure to Collins/Painter. After what the Bucs defense did to Matt Ryan last week, you might expect more of the same unless head coach Jim Caldwell resorts to just three-step drops. The receiving corps is more talented than the Bucs secondary, but it may end up being decided on the trenches if the quarterback can release on time.
Bucs receiver Preston Parker has been coming up huge for the Bucs grabbing 11 for 153 yards and Kellen Winslow remains as the reliable clutch veteran to complement the Colt’s Clark catching 12 for 130. Primary receiver Mike Williams started to improve his presence grabbing 5 catches for 43 yards.
Both defenses are nothing to really scoff at. While the Colts only gave up 37 yards from Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhaal and the Bucs gave up 20 to Atlanta’s Michael Turner, both still rank near the bottom third in rushing defense (22nd and 23 respectively). The Colts have given up only 18 fewer yards than the Bucs in passing defense so it could come down to who is more successful in the run and who can provide key turnovers.
Colts coach Jim Caldwell has the wounded animal factor going for him that they might pull all stops to keep the Bucs off-guard. Chances are it will come down to who will manage the game better. Freeman’s discipline and clutch ability is closer to where Peyton Manning than either Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter combined at this point. If the Colts are to win, they need to keep the ball out of Freeman’s hands.
Bucs 17 Colts 9