INDIANAPOLIS – Dan Orlovsky will be returning to a very familiar area this weekend as the starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.
The seventh-year pro will accompany his team to face the New England Patriots on Sunday. The Bridgeport, Connecticut native knows the area very well. He might have family members in attendance. His mind will not waver, however. He must direct the Colts against the Patriots on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
"(They're a) good team," said Orlovsky. "Obviously, the tradition they have over the last decade and the rivalry between these two organizations, it's exciting. It will be a good challenge. They're playing well. They're hitting their streak. It will be a good challenge for us."
Orlovsky will be playing in his 17th NFL game this Sunday, only his eighth as a starting quarterback. With Detroit from 2005-09, Orlovsky has seen some tough venues. As a seven-game starter in 2008, he opened under center in divisional battles at Minnesota, Chicago and Green Bay. Those rowdy arenas have prepared him for what he should see Sunday at Gillette Stadium one hour past high noon.
"I've played on the road before," said Orlovsky. "I've played at loud stadiums before. I think I'll be ready for it. I'll be focused. I'll make sure I'm on top of my job and communicating. I'm sure their crowd will do their part. It's part of our responsibility to handle it. … It will be a big focus of ours this week to put ourselves in situations and giving ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Hopefully when the situations arise, to make the play."
Orlovsky was named the team's starting quarterback on Tuesday, the same day the club promoted Linebackers Coach Mike Murphy to defensive coordinator. The moves of changing coaches and quarterbacks could be a cause of distraction, but Orlovsky had a different mindset.
"Distractions are what you allow them to be," said Orlovsky. "If don't allow it (changes this week) to be a distraction, it won't be. I think most of the guys understand it's a difficult profession. Sometimes decisions like that get made, whether (it's) coaches or players. You move on. It sounds kind of harsh, but it's a reality in our world. I think most of us are just focused on the game this weekend and really just practicing today and preparing. We know what we're up against. It's a really good football team. I think most guys will be focused on that."
New England is on a three-game winning streak to stand at 8-3 and in first-place in the AFC East. The Patriots' defense has surrendered just 39 points in the last three games, while their offense has topped 34 points in every outing. Having a potent offense like that can cause opponents to throw more often to try to keep pace, and Orlovsky is aware of that when observers asked him about a New England defense that ranks 32nd in the league in yards allowed.
"I think they're playing really well," said Orlovsky. "A lot of people have misleading stats on them. Stats are stats. When your offense is putting up 30 points a game and you're playing with a two- or three-touchdown lead for most of it, teams are going to throw the ball and you're going to potentially be a little more conservative just to run the clock. They're playing well."
New England always has fielded a physical and talented defense, and this Sunday is no different.
"They're big in the middle," said Orlovsky. "They have two guys on the edge who can rush the passer well. I think they try to put themselves in situations to get into those situations. (Jerod) Mayo's kind of the quarterback of the defense. I think there's been a lot of noise made about their secondary. I think their secondary is playing well. I think they're coming along. They put themselves in the position to be successful against Philly last week. It's a challenge for us, absolutely."
Indianapolis has had the lead in four different games this season. For the most part, the team has been behind on the scoreboard and typically has not been able to rush the ball as often as it has wished. When it does, the team is averaging 4.4 yards per attempt, and Orlovsky knows a ground threat can be of great use to any team.
"Any time you have a good running game as a quarterback, it's beneficial," said Orlovsky. "It forces teams to most likely drop somebody down. You get more of a single high safety on the outside, which is a little more free access (for) throws. (You can) control the clock a little more, set tempo, wear a defense out. There's a lot of benefits to a good running game, especially with the weather. That's why everyone says when you get to the end of the year (that) teams that can run the ball have better chances to go (on) a playoff run. It will be a big part of what we do."
The team worked in earnest for the first time on Wednesday. Orlovsky is a huge proponent of practice preparation.
"I learned probably my first year in Houston (2010), to be a good game player, you have to be a good practice player," said Orlovsky. "I will go out and practice well and prepare like it's a game, put myself in those situations and do my best to make sure that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday carry over into Sunday."
Orlovsky believes he will be in sync with his receivers, and he claims his routine this week will be no different than past ones when he did not start, other than the number of reps he will get in practice.
"Timing is timing, it's important," said Orlovsky. "If they run their routes, which they do, and where they're supposed to and I throw the ball where I'm supposed to, it will be fine. … The only difference (this week) is I get the reps (in practice). Other than that, my preparation won't change. My Saturday night won't change. My Sunday morning won't change. My pre-game probably won't change either, just get the reps in practice, which is important. It's beneficial, absolutely. At the end of the day, it's going to come down to Sunday."
When Sunday does come, his mind will be purely on the Patriots, but he does feel a bit of mid-week excitement about returning to a familiar area and to play in front of people who should remember him.
"It's pretty cool," said Orlovsky of playing in New England. "Being close to there and growing up and going to school (Connecticut) there, I have some people coming to the game. Connecticut doesn't have a pro sports team, so UConn is Connecticut's baby. A lot of people are diehard with UConn. Being from there and going to school there, there are a lot of fans who are UConn fans and Patriots fans. It will be fun to go back there and play close to home and play against a team and organization that's the cream of the crop."
As for the inevitable ticket requests, Orlovsky has a stock answer to pull from his back pocket.
"Stubhub. I don't buy tickets," said Orlovsky. "I tell people I have three kids on the way, so Stubhub is a good bet."