INDIANAPOLIS – Dan Orlovsky started at quarterback for Indianapolis last week at New England and completed 30-of-37 passes for 353 yards with two touchdowns.
He helped lead the club on fourth-quarter touchdown drives that covered 86, 90 and 93 yards, while his second possession of the game netted a field goal after a 19-play march that consumed 10:19 of the first and second quarters.
Indianapolis fell to the Patriots, 31-24, but the club set seasonal-bests in first downs (26), passing first downs (21), net yards (437), third-down conversions (10-of-15) and time of possession (35:39). It was a successful step for an offense that has struggled this year staying on the field.
Orlovsky was one of the reasons for the team's performance. He found out last Tuesday that he would be starting. He has known this full week that it will be his role again on Sunday when the Colts visit Baltimore.
When asked if there were things to build on from his first start, Orlovsky was optimistic.
"Hopefully, a lot," said Orlvosky of things he hopes to build on for this week. "Looking at the film, realizing the things we did well and executed well allowed us to have some success in certain areas are things we need to continue to do, continue to focus on and continue to build upon."
Orlovsky is grounded enough to be a realist about the weekly pressures of the NFL.
"Absolutely," said Orlovsky if there were things last week to critique critically. "There are some throws I would like to have back, and some balls I would like to put in a different place. Just try to run things a little bit more efficiently and try to continue to progress. I'm the first one to know that this league is a week-by-week, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately (proposition). Whatever happened last week, good or bad, you move on and put in the past. Sunday is what counts now."
Orlovsky was able to stand tall last week for the Colts. He found wide receivers 21 times for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He hit Pierre Garcon nine times for 150 yards and for touchdowns of 33 and 12 yards. Austin Collie had seven receptions, while Reggie Wayne had five. Tight end Jacob Tamme had five receptions, too. Indianapolis was able to stretch the field as well as it has done in 2011.
Collie came away impressed with Orlovsky's command of the offense.
"It's good. Dan's a smart guy," said Collie. "He's been in the league for a while. He's been around long enough (here) to know the system. You can definitely tell there's a confidence there in what he's doing. Naturally that confidence is going to brush off to everybody else out there on the field."
Tamme was a productive target for Indianapolis in 2010, and he has gained the same opportunity over the last half of this season. He thrived last week at New England and liked how Orlovsky played.
"Dan did great. Dan did like we all thought he would do," said Tamme. "He's been working hard since he got here. He was poised. He kept us in rhythm. He made some great throws. Like all of us, he wishes he had one or two back. Overall, we did a lot of good things (but) not enough."
In his time in the league, Orlovsky was around top-flight receivers in Detroit and Houston. He respected the talents he saw in those places, and he has an appreciation for his offensive cast in Indianapolis.
"I've been around some pretty good ones," said Orlovsky. "I had a pretty special player in Detroit in Calvin (Johnson) and in Houston in Andre (Johnson). They have a pretty good corps down there, too. These guys are as good as I've come across. They all have a unique skill set and kind of a thing that they do well. Any time you catch as many passes as Reggie (Wayne) has in his career, you're doing something right. They all three (Wayne, Collie, Garcon) are really good receivers. It's a comfort level. You have a lot of trust in them. I guess I didn't see it until I was out there, but just the competitive level that they have while out on the field (is impressive). It kind of brings it out of you. You like playing with them because of how competitive they are, how much they want to go out and compete and win. That was kind of an eye-opening cool thing for me to see. (I) just appreciate being a part of it."
When quizzed on if their abilities can take a little pressure off the performance task, Orlovsky agreed.
"Absolutely. When they're as good as they are, as consistent as they are, it allows you to (improve)," said Orlovsky. "Last week, it was going to take time for me to get comfortable throwing balls to spots, and it happened pretty quickly for me just because they make me a lot more comfortable knowing that if I throw it to a spot, more likely than not they'll go get it. If not, no one's going to get it. They make my job easy."
Getting synched up with receivers in the attack is just one function for Orlovsky, and he must direct the entire package. He is meeting the challenge of establishing the timing while trying to learn the offense. He enjoys the challenge.
"It's hard," said Orlovsky of getting on the page with his receivers. "It's the NFL, so there are a lot of aspects that go into it. Each guy is different. Each guy is so good at what he does, such a pro that it makes, speaking for me, my job easier. I know they're going to do what they're supposed to do. They're going to be where they're supposed to be. It makes it a little easier for me.
"To pick up the offense has been challenging, yes. It's kind of my responsibility and my job, so it's kind of how I've kind of handled it. (I) continue to try to learn it, pick up little nuances. One of the things that helped me is sitting back and watching film over the years of Peyton run it. It has helped me. It's my job and responsibility to know the offense and be able to run it. It's a focus of mine."
Having a safety outlet is important for any quarterback operating an attack. Orlovsky is like other signal-callers in finding one with a tight end.
"Jacob (Tamme) is really helpful," said Orlovsky. "I feel real comfortable with him. He thinks like a quarterback. You can throw it anywhere. I threw him a pass yesterday that I honestly thought was incomplete, and he caught it. He's a good player. He sees windows before they open up. He kind of sees defenders and colors move the way a quarterback (does), or at least I do. He's a good player. Any time you get him in man (coverage), usually it's a decent match-up with him on a linebacker or a safety. He's able to get open and make plays. He's great with the ball in his hands, so he's definitely a security blanket in a way."