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George has bad start, happy return

Early on, it appeared Colts quarterback Jeff George might be thumbing his way back to Indianapolis; 0-for-3 with two interceptions is no way to make an entrance.

But by game's end, everything was thumbs up for the Colts' young quarterback.

George, who Sunday made his first game appearance since injuring the thumb on his throwing hand in preseason, proved in the second half against Tampa Bay that, in his hands, the Colts' offense has sting.

George rebounded from those two pickoffs in his first three passes to toss two second-half touchdowns in the Colts' 24-14, come-from-behind win over the Bucs.

But George's first half was certainly forgettable.

"First half? What first half? I don't remember the first half," said George, who was only 3 of 13 in the first two quarters. "The first half is kind of a blur."

And with reason. The Indianapolis offense spent only 6 minutes and 30 seconds on the field as the Bucs' secondary welcomed George back into the starting lineup.

George's first pass was incomplete, in front of an open receiver. The next two were intercepted, one each by Bucs safeties Marty Carter and Darrell Fullington.

"I tried to do too much early out there," said George, who played with the right thumb heavily taped. "I was pushing myself, trying to make big plays when they weren't there. I tried to create things, and you can't do that in this league."

George followed his bad first half by leading the Colts on a five-play, 71-yard drive to open the third quarter. George, who called most of his own plays in the Colts' no-huddle offense, audibled on a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Hester that evened the score at 14.

And Colts coach Ted Marchibroda knew his quarterback was back.

"This is the first time he's played in six weeks, and it's hard to have that timing right away," Marchibroda said. "He did a masterful job in the second half.

"The first half was my fault. I put too much pressure on Jeff, asked too much of him. He was calling his own plays for the first time in the no-huddle, and he knew we needed to win this game."

Indianapolis won its opener 14-3 over Cleveland, then cut starting quarterback Mark Herrmann the next week to activate veteran Jack Trudeau while keeping third-stringer Tom Tupa on the roster. With Trudeau at quarterback in their past two outings, losses to Houston and Buffalo, the Colts reached the end zone only once.

George, the Colts' No.

1 draft pick in 1990, doubled that scoring production in one half. He finished with 234 yards on 15-of-33 passing _ 12-of-20 in the second half _ and a game ball for a keepsake.

"Once I calmed down a little bit, we started playing football," said George, who stood his ground in the pocket against pressure from the Bucs' defensive front. "The line protected me, the receivers made great catches, the defense played great, and we were able to come back."

Largely because George was able to come back.

"It seems like I've been out forever," he said. "It was great to be back in there."

The numbers by George

First half

Cmp Att Yds Int TDs

3 13 57 2 0

Second half

Cmp Att Yds Int TDs

12 20 177 1 2


Cmp Att Yds Int TDs

15 33 234 3 2