INDIANAPOLIS – One reality of the NFL is while there may be momentum and carry-over from one week to the next, the amount is far less than what must be accomplished against a new opponent on a new Sunday.
A week after posting the best offensive output of the season at New England, Indianapolis encountered a Baltimore defense that was playing at peak efficiency.
Indianapolis knew the challenge would be different and that execution and decisiveness would be necessary against Baltimore. In the end, the club was not able to function to the degree it had at Foxborough.
The Colts had five three-and-outs offensively against the Ravens, while earning 167 net yards and possessing the ball for almost 24 minutes. After converting 10-of-15 third-down chances against the Patriots, the club struggled to two-of-14 on Sunday at Baltimore.
Some days in the league will be better than others. Emotions cannot soar wildly after a win, and they must be kept in check after a game where things did not click.
Making his second career start with Indianapolis, quarterback Dan Orlovsky knows to keep an even keel and to look forward to the next chance to compete.
That next opportunity is six days away against divisional foe Tennessee, a team still looking to forward its post-season chances in a competitive conference.
"The great thing about our league is you get another Sunday usually," said Orlovsky at his locker on Monday. "We have another Sunday coming up. (It's a) really good team, a division opponent. It will be another good test for us. They're right in the hunt for a playoff spot. We're going to get their best shot."
Orlovsky looked back at the Baltimore performance and was frank in his assessment of the outing.
"We didn't play well," said Orlovsky. "The only positive I would say is we don't have guys who quit. That is one thing. I don't make a big deal out of it because we're not supposed to quit. That's not what they pay us to do. It's our job to go out there and play and (to) play hard. There were not a lot of positives (at Baltimore). We got handled pretty good. (We have) a lot of room to get better.
"We didn't play good as an offense, all of us. That starts with me as a quarterback. I take a lot of pride in it. There is a lot of room for me to get better and all of us to get better. We need to. We need to (do it) quickly."
A troubling part to the season has been when the Colts have fallen behind by large margins before getting on the scoreboard. Yesterday at Baltimore, the Ravens scored the game's first 17 points before Indianapolis could respond. It marked the fifth time this season an opponent opened a lead of 17 or more points before the Colts scored.
In failing to convert 12 third downs, Indianapolis was faced with challenging distances to navigate. Nine of 14 opportunities needed distances greater than six yards to convert and five of those nine exceeded 10 yards.
Orlovsky says better work needs to be done on early downs, even though he was facing a tough defense and a team that had won 16 of its last 17 home outings.
"You do have to give them their credit," said Orlovsky. "They are a good defense. We're professionals, too. We should not play that way. The big reason is we didn't do anything on first and second down. We got into a lot of third-and-longs. You get in a third-and-long against them, you have no shot. We have to do a better job on first and second downs, all of us. That starts with me."
Head Coach Jim Caldwell echoed Orlovsky's claim, and he is aware third downs have been an issue for the club this season.
"Obviously, it's an outstanding defense, there's no question about that," said Caldwell. "Also, there were some situations where we did not play consistently well ourselves in terms of little things that make a huge difference against a team that is big and strong and can run. We just didn't convert enough third downs. Some of that was certainly maybe a pass protection here and there. Pass protection doesn't fall just on the offensive line. We have backs, we have the offensive line, we have receivers running routes on time, we have to get rid of the ball. All of those things played a part in it.
"Their defense is a pretty salty defense and if you don't play really well against a defense like that, they're going to stall you. They're going to slow you down in all phases. They slowed us down in our running game and also, obviously, in our passing game and in our third-down conversions."
Indianapolis closes the season with three straight games against AFC South competition. After hosting Tennessee on Sunday, Indianapolis has division champion Houston on December 22 before visiting Jacksonville on January 1.
Orlovsky spent two seasons (2009-10) with the Texans, so he is familiar with the teams in the division. He knows what to expect from Tennessee. The Titans fought New Orleans well before falling, 22-17. Tennessee twice had the ball deep in New Orleans territory in the final three minutes, but could not score.
"I know it (the division) pretty well, being down in Houston two years," said Orlovsky. "Obviously, it's the same division. I think you know what you're going to get with Tennessee, although it's a new coach (Mike Munchak) than it has been (Jeff Fisher) in the past. They're tough. (They have) a really good back (in Chris Johnson). Defensively, I don't think they do a lot to try and confuse you. They're more of a defense that wants to line up and play fast. They're a good team. They're a good organization. They've been that way for a long time. They are right in the hunt for a playoff spot. They're playing well. They took one of the better teams in the NFC pretty deep yesterday in their game. It will be another good test for us. We have to watch the film and make the conscious effort of really trying to get better at the things we need to get better at quickly. I think we can all get better. It starts with me."