- Associated Press - Thursday, October 13, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - For the past two weeks, the Colts’ combination of Curtis Painter and Pierre Garcon has been among the best in the NFL.

They have teamed up for 271 yards and four touchdowns and helped the Colts offense at least resemble what Indy fans have grown accustomed to.

Garcon had touchdown receptions of 87 and 59 yards at Tampa Bay, then followed up with five catches for 125 yards and two more scores last Sunday against Kansas City. He has more yards and touchdowns the past two weeks than players like Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith, Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings.

It has been a rare bright spot for the Peyton Manning-less Colts (0-5) headed into Sunday’s game at Cincinnati (3-2).

The connection between Painter and Garcon developed during the summer.

“We worked out a lot,” Garcon said. “With the lockout, we just had more time to take advantage of us being together and throwing with each other. It’s working out good for us.”

Their success hasn’t led to a win so far this season, but Painter has developed well and Garcon, not Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark, leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns.

It’s a scenario that seemed unimaginable a month ago.

The Colts brought Kerry Collins in to start at quarterback after Manning had his third neck surgery. Collins struggled, then had a concussion, and Painter had his a chance.

Painter has a 100.0 quarterback rating and hasn’t thrown an interception. The Colts have been competitive enough that Coach Jim Caldwell says Painter will keep the starting job after Collins recovers.

Curtis is our starter, plain and simple,” Caldwell said. “That’s the way it is. He’s playing well, he’s doing a nice job, and I think you’ll continue to see him develop.”

As a rookie, Painter famously stepped in for Manning to try to preserve Indy’s unbeaten 2009 season. The 14-0 Colts pulled their starters in the third quarter against the New York Jets, and a 15-10 lead quickly turned into a 29-15 loss.

After not playing at all in 2010, Painter opened this year’s camp with the first unit while Manning recovered from neck surgery. The team then brought Collins out of retirement, but Painter started showing signs of progress.

He completed 11 of 21 passes for 171 yards with two TD passes in a preseason game against Green Bay. In his first regular-season action this year, Painter directed the Colts to a game-tying touchdown against Pittsburgh in an eventual loss.

The next week, against Tampa Bay, Painter passed for 281 yards and two scores. He followed that by throwing for 237 yards in the first half against Kansas City, the ninth-highest first-half total in Colts history.

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