INDIANAPOLIS – Dan Orlovsky is not on a one-man crusade.
Orlovsky will be making his fifth start for Indianapolis in what is the last game of the season. He is joined by 52 other teammates who view this as the next game rather than the last game.
The Colts will be playing at Jacksonville on Sunday with a chance to ring in a New Year with a season-ending three-game winning streak. Indianapolis defeated Tennessee and Houston just prior to Christmas and though this is the first time since 2001 the club will not make the playoffs, Sunday looms large on the radar screen wanting to win.
"I want to finish it the right way. It's important to me," said Orlovsky. "I think it's important to these guys. We enjoyed the win last week, but it's over. We've moved on, just like if we had lost we would have moved on. It's been nice. Hopefully, we'll finish off the right way."
Winning for a long time has been the only barometer used by the Colts. The team produced the most successful decade in NFL history from 2000-09 in amassing 115 regular-season victories. The club has won seven of 10 AFC South titles and has enjoyed success in the division since 2002 to the tune of a 44-15 record against its most frequent foes.
Indianapolis would like to pad that record with one more win Sunday against an opponent Orlovsky says has a direct and blunt defensive approach.
"Their front's playing real well," said Orlovsky. "I think their front's getting after the quarterback and playing well. (It's) a team that's not going to do a lot to try to confuse you. I think they subscribe to the (theory), 'We're going to line up and play fast and make you beat us.' We're going to have to go play well. We're going to have to protect the football. We're going to have to take some shots when we need to. I think they're playing pretty sound defense. We'll have to go play a good game."
For the season, Orlovsky has hit 95-of-153 passes for 937 yards, with five touchdowns and two interceptions for a rating of 84.8. In his first start at New England, Orlovsky hit 30-of-37 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Colts to season-bests with 437 net yards, 26 first downs, 10-of-15 third-down conversions and 35:39 time of possession.
After the club had a difficult outing at Baltimore, Orlovsky responded in the division with 11-of-17 passing for 82 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee and 23-of-41 passing for 244 yards and a touchdown against Houston. The Colts posted a season-best 205 rushing yards in the win over the Titans, and Orlovsky directed a game-winning 78-yard drive in the final 1:50 with no time outs to beat the Texans. The seventh-year Orlovsky credits others for the team's recent offensive success.
"It usually starts with the guys up front," said Orlovsky. "I think those guys are really playing at a high level right now in the pass game and the run game. We're running the ball maybe not at a six-yards-a-clip (pace), but we're running it. We're persistent with it. The guys are running hard. We're not abandoning it, and guys on the outside are making plays. I think that's important. We're doing a good job of getting ourselves into manageable third downs. It usually helps. We're making plays in critical situations. It usually boils down to us critical situations and making plays. A lot of games are decided (by) seven points or less. We're not really turning the ball over a ton. I think we've won the turnover battle the past couple of weeks. It's weird. Football really boils down to a lot of simplicity – who has the ball longer, who doesn't turn it over as much, who converts more on third down and who scores more points. It's simple. Sometimes we get in the way of that. We've been doing a good job of protecting the football, staying on some drives and making plays when we have to. (I) give a lot of credit to the guys up front."
Indianapolis trended to better offensive rhythm in the past few weeks. Orlovsky would not mind having more chances to keep honing his craft, but he will have to do so after contending with Jacksonville.
"I feel we've been playing good football for a month now," said Orlovsky. "You try not to think about that (the season ending). We're here this week. We have a game on Sunday. It's our last scheduled game this season. We'll go out and prepare and play well. Sure, we would like to have more opportunities, but we had 12 or 13 before this, just like everyone else in this league. It's a big game for us on Sunday. We'll be ready to go. It will be a good test."