TAMPA, Fla. — Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rally for another victory.
Freeman threw for 287 yards and a touchdown, Blount ran for 127 yards and a score, and the Buccaneers beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-17 on Monday night.
Freeman, who ran fo
r a touchdown early in the game, scrambled for a huge first down on the winning drive as the Buccaneers (3-1) won their third consecutive game. Freeman rallied the Bucs to victory at Minnesota in Week 2.
The Colts fell to 0-4 for the first time since 1998, Peyton Manning’s rookie season. Manning has watched all four games, unable to play because of a neck injury.
Curtis Painter started this one, filling in for injured backup Kerry Collins, who’s out because of a concusssion, and played better than most expected. Painter threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns, both long ones to Pierre Garcon. He wasn’t nearly as effective down the stretch, partly because the Colts lost starting offensive linemen Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana to injuries. Guard Ryan Diem was inactive.
Painter completed 13 of 30 passes. Garcon turned a short sideline route into an 87-yard score in the second quarter, then took a screen pass and weaved his way through defenders for a 59-yarder in the third.
The 87-yarder was the team’s longest play of the season, the fifth-longest pass play in team history and longer than anything Manning has thrown in his NFL career.
The Colts were up 17-10 after Garcon’s second score, but it was all Tampa Bay in the final 20-plus minutes.
Freeman was 25 of 39 passing, buying time in the pocket and picking apart Indy’s zone defense. He got the Bucs on the scoreboard with a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter and tied the game at 10 with a 13-yard pass to Preston Parker late in the third.
Blount put them ahead for good when he broke through the line of scrimmage, cut right and scampered for a 35-yard score with 3:15 remaining. Freeman had a huge run on a third-and-6 play on the drive. He eluded a rusher, scrambled out of the pocket and dived for a first down.
Freeman also converted a fourth-and-1 play with 1:10 remaining, allowing the Bucs to run out the clock. He finished with six carries for 27 yards.
Tampa Bay’s biggest problem — aside from the two long TD passes — was penalties. The Buccaneers were flagged 14 times for 106 yards.
None of those was as costly as Dwight Freeney’s penalty. Indianapolis’ star pass-rusher was flagged for being offside on a third-and-19 play. The Buccaneers converted on the ensuing play, setting up Connor Barth’s 46-yard field goal that tied the game at 10.
Indy went back in fronton Garcon’s second score. He eluded several defenders while crisscrossing the field, and may have been aided by a block in the back. There were no flags, though.
Garcon’s first one was nearly as good. He turned up the sideline and outran everyone to the end zone, giving the Colts a 10-0 lead.
Freeman responded by driving the Bucs down the field, then sneaked the ball across the goal line. Tampa Bay had a chance to tie the game or take the lead just before halftime, but Robert Mathis sacked Freeman on third down and the Bucs had to scramble to get the field goal unit lined up.
They did, and Barth’s kick was good from 37 yards. But the Bucs had 12 men on the field, so they went to the locker room trailing.
It didn’t matter, not against the struggling Colts.
With Collins out, Painter made his first career start, and recently signed Dan Orlovsky served as the backup.
Indy looked like it might pull the upset until the linemen starting going down. The Colts also lost defensive tackle Eric Foster with a dislocated right ankle.
Foster injured his ankle with 52 seconds remaining in the first half. He got tangled up in a pile while trying to make a tackle. Athletic trainers rushed to help him. Teammates and opponents prayed and Colts coach Jim Caldwell knelt by his side.
Foster was fitted with an air cast and taken to a hospital where he was to be kept overnight for observation. He pounded his chest and yelled to teammates as he left the field to applause.
Foster, out of Rutgers, is in his fourth season. He entered the game with 12 tackles.