The Colts again played a great game, being much more competitive than many in the national media expected them to be.
In fact, if it wasn't for injuries to EVERY SINGLE LINEMAN on the Colts' roster, the Colts may have had a very good chance to win this game. Anthony Castonzo was forced out early with an ankle injury, and Ben Ijalana replaced him at left tackle. Iggy did a good job while at LT, and it was interesting that the Colts' coaches had enough confidence in him to put him at LT instead of moving Linkenbach over. But he wouldn't last either, going out with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter.
At this point, the Colts brought in Mike Tepper (signed off the practice squad) who manned right tackle while Linkenbach switched to left tackle. With the Colts already down Ryan Diem, and Joe Reitz hobbling on an ankle injury, the OL was severely limited.
The defensive line didn't fare any better, losing Eric Foster to a nasty ankle injury in the second quarter. Foster was carted off the field, and will stay the night in a Tampa hospital for evaluation. His injury was the type you get sick from seeing, and I would be surprised if he wasn't out for the season. Drake Nevis also left later with a back injury. This left the Colts with just Antonio Johnson at defensive tackle, as Fili Moala was sidelined again tonight with an ankle injury.
Despite the injuries, the Colts played well tonight, and played with a lot of heart. Curtis Painter showed that Reggie Wayne was validated in his statements during the preseason, throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.
He did give up a fumble early in the game, but was again blindsided by a missed block (this one on Joseph Addai). Painter wasn't perfect to be sure, going 13 for 30, but he looked comfortable in the pocket, ran something similar to Manning's offense, and in general gave the Colts much more than Collins has managed.
Unfortunately, the Colts just couldn't get anything going on offense in the fourth quarter, largely due to the ineffectiveness of the patchwork offensive line. On defense, the Colts played hard, and gave an admirable effort, but was just too tired and thin to stop Tampa's power run game.
There was some very questionable coaching tonight, and it isn't helping Jim Caldwell's case to stay in Indianapolis. There will be more on this to come, but there were just far too many head scratching plays tonight. Punting on fourth and five with three minutes left was a terrible decision. Inexcusable.
Overall, this team has heart, it has pride, and it does have talent. Two weeks in a row, the Colts have taken a playoff contender to the wire, and had a very legitimate shot to win. The Colts are playing much better than many expected, especially the defense.
Hopefully the injuries suffered tonight aren't too serious, but the loss of Eric Foster is a big blow to the Colts' defensive line. He's quietly been having a very good season, and is a great guy off the field as well. Even as he was carted of the field in tremendous pain, Foster was pounding his chest and shouting encouragement towards his teammates. A class act, and someone Colts' fans should be proud of. In fact, be proud of this entire team. They deserve it.