TAMPA (Reuters) - The Indianapolis Colts suffered their fourth loss in a row and remain winless in the National Football League this season after a 24-17 defeat at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday.
LeGarrette Blount's powerful 35-yard touchdown run into the corner with 3:15 left on the clock gave Tampa Bay, who had trailed for much of the game, the win.
Blount combined aggression with power to put up 127 yards on the ground in the Bucs win, which lifts them level with the New Orleans Saints at the top of the NFC South on 3-1.
The 0-4 Colts have struggled without injured quarterback Peyton Manning but his replacement Curtis Painter played well in his first NFL start, making a smart pass to Pierre Garcon for an 87-yard touchdown to put Indianapolis 10-0 up after an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
Painter, who started instead of the injured Kerry Collins, finished with 281 passing yards and two touchdowns.
"I think Curtis did some good things, made some big plays, he handled things well," said Colts head coach Jim Caldwell.
While the Colts put on an improved performance it was not enough against a determined Tampa Bay team inspired by their six foot six quarterback Josh Freeman.
Freeman completed 25 of 39 passes, throwing for 287 yards and a touchdown. He also ran in a touchdown and produced a vital rush for first down in the decisive drive that led to Blount's score.
The quarterback sneaked in for a one-yard touchdown in the second quarter to bring his team back into the game and a Connor Barth field goal in the third leveled the score.
Garcon displayed some good running after the catch by taking a short pass from Painter and benefited from some fine blocking as he weaved his way into the endzone for a 59-yard touchdown that put the Colts 17-10 up.
Preston Parker caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Freeman as the Buccaneers pulled level at the end of the third.
Freeman has proven to be a quarterback who can raise his game in the fourth quarter and he did it again on Monday, leading his team down the field to set up Blount's touchdown as Tampa Bay secured the victory.
The Colts' injury worries deepened when defensive tackle Eric Foster was carried off with a serious ankle injury. (Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Peter Rutherford; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)