The Indianapolis Colts indeed fell to 0-3 Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium as many predicted they would.
I’m sure few people, however, predicted that a loss that dropped the Colts to 0-3 would feel so good.
The Colts put forth a stellar effort on the field and pushed the Pittsburgh Steelers to the brink in a 23-20 loss. Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham kicked a 38-yard field goal after a late drive by Ben Roethlisberger to seal the deal with four seconds to play.
But what an encouraging and much-needed display by the Colts, even with the end result.
On paper, this matchup looked rather one-sided without Peyton Manning. That couldn’t have been more false on the field.
Granted, it sure looked like the Steelers would make quick work of the Colts early on; Roethlisberger hit receiver Mike Wallace for an 81-yard touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 10-0 first-quarter lead.
Roethlisberger finished 25-of-37 for 364 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He helped the Steelers convert 53 percent of their third downs.
But beyond that long bomb and the late game-winning drive, the Colts defense was gritty all night.
Dwight Freeney had quite possibly one of the best games of his career. He finished with two sacks, one a strip-sack which Jamaal Anderson recovered and took back to the house, tying the game at 10-10 in the second quarter. Freeney’s bookend mate, Robert Mathis, recorded the Colts’ other sack.
Just after the Anderson score, safety Joe Lefeged intercepted Roethlisberger to set up Adam Vinatieri’s second field goal and give the Colts a 13-10 lead, which they took to the locker room.
Yep, the Colts controlled a good chunk of this game, thanks in part to that run defense (yeah, you heard me right). Pittsburgh could run for just 67 yards at 2.4 yards per carry against Indy’s defensive front. Pat Angerer (11 total tackles) and Drake Nevis are going to be players on this defense.
The chunk of that game ended when Curtis Painter, who entered play in the fourth quarter after starting quarterback Kerry Collins was concussed, lost a fumble that Steelers safety returned for a touchdown, giving Pittsburgh a 20-13 lead.
To Painter’s credit, though, he engineered (no Purdue pun intended) a late drive to tie the game back up, helped sensationally by running back Joseph Addai, who continues to be the Colts’ most impressive offensive player this season. Addai carried 17 times for 86 yards and a clutch game-tying touchdown on that drive; he evaded Polamalu in the backfield to rumble ahead for the score.
While Roethlisberger did what he does and drove the Steelers back for the score, most people thought that wouldn’t have been necessary going in. The Colts went above and beyond what anyone would have expected against the defending AFC champions and offered a glimmer of hope going forward.
If this team can play as hard defensively as it did tonight and continue to commit to the run, it can win ball games.
As for the quarterback situation, it is worth noting Painter led more touchdown drives on offense than Collins did Sunday, but it remains to be seen whether a controversy will exist pending Collins’ medical condition. It might not be a stretch to say Painter gives the Colts a better chance to win right now.
The Colts didn’t beat the Steelers, but they gave their opponents a game and gave their hometown fans, who still showed up despite the huge droves of Steelers fans in-house, every reason to be proud of them.Follow paulmbanks