INDIANAPOLIS – Curtis Painter walked off the field Sunday and saw his shadow. That means six more weeks of bad Colts football.
I should clarify. We'll have one week of no Colts football – they have a bye next Sunday and are currently three-point favorites – before the six-week no-victory march to Andrew Luck.
The Colts lost 17-3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Tickets distributed: 64,619. Satisfied fans: the prescient ones who left their tickets on the kitchen table and found something else to do.
The Colts offense was so inept Painter threw two interceptions in one series. Now that's not easy. For his effort, the fans booed him twice. I'm not sure if Peyton Manning's neck still hurts, but he winced as he watched. I feel his pain. At least Manning and I are being compensated to attend the games, albeit with a few decimal point differences in our checks.
My sympathy goes out to Colts season ticket holders. They paid for this. Actually, they paid for something else before the old fate-and-switch. But they paid, nonetheless.
On a positive note, the Dolphins and Rams both won for the second time, giving the 0-10 Colts a two-game lead for that first pick in the NFL Draft and the most eventful offseason since Manning was drafted.
There's no doubt the Colts' offseason will be more interesting, and more much more fun to talk about, than this lost season. Should they draft Luck to work under Manning? Trade the pick? Trade Manning? Fun, fun discussion.
But this season still must limp to the finish first.
It's now been two weeks since the Colts scored an offensive touchdown. (Trivia answer: Donald Brown, 4-yard run vs. Tennessee.) It's been five weeks since they've held a lead. (Trivia answer: 24-21 early in fourth quarter vs. the Chiefs). It's been forever since they've been enjoyable to watch. (Trivia answer: Manning was on his first neck surgery then.)
Jacksonville entered the game even more pathetic on offense, if you can believe it. The Colts were ranked 31st in total offense coming in, Jacksonville 32nd. The teams lived down to the hype with a 3-3 first half.
I enjoy big defensive plays and watching Josh Scobee and Adam Vinatieri trade field goals as much as the next guy. But they should invent a new statistical category for these offenses: YPM (Yawns Per Minute). At least then the Colts offense could lead the league in something.
If you're scoring at home, which the Colts are not, Indianapolis has been outscored 137-27 the last four games.
Coach Jim Caldwell seems disinclined to pull the trigger and replace Painter as the starter with backup Dan Orlovsky. That's too bad because Painter has been slipping week by week in production. Orlovsky came in late in the fourth quarter and hit 7-of-10 passes for 67 yards, but lost the ball on a sack that led to the game-sealing Maurice Jones-Drew touchdown run.
What could it hurt to start Orlovsky instead? Would another loss make a difference or would it just be too cruel to have Orlovsky playing as the team heads toward 0-16, since he was also on the 0-16 Lions in 2008?
Caldwell pointed to Painter's 14 of 20 completions, which sounds a lot better than it looked. Caldwell didn't necessarily rule out switching quarterbacks, but perhaps he suspects that, ultimately, it's rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, as they say.
“We'll evaluate that, take a look at it and see where we go from here,” Caldwell said.
The Colts were in decent position at halftime with the score tied, but fell behind on a 16-play, 86-yard Jacksonville drive in the third quarter that ate 9 minutes, 47 seconds off the clock. The pivotal play, prior to Blaine Gabbert's 11-yard touchdown pass to Jarett Dillard, came when Colts defensive end Robert Mathis sacked Gabbert on what would have forced a fourth down in Jacksonville territory. Instead, Colts defensive end Tyler Brayton was called for illegal use of hands, and the drive continued.
After the Jags went up 10-3, Painter embarked on the series where he was picked off twice. He got his second chance when William Middleton's interception was overruled on a Colts' challenge that Jacksonville had 12 players on the field. Three plays later Painter threw a pass to no easily discernible receiver and linebacker Paul Posluszny picked it off.
“Kind of a poor decision,” Painter said. “Probably a poor throw.”
I'm not trying to make Painter the scapegoat for this season. There are other problems, of course. And none of those are going away until the season ends at Jacksonville on New Year's Day. That could be a fitting date indeed.