INDIANAPOLIS – On Sunday at New England, quarterback Dan Orlovsky was making the eighth start of his career, and it was his first career start in four outings with the Colts.
The seventh-year pro directed an Indianapolis attack that set seasonal-bests with 26 first downs, 21 passing first downs, 437 net yards, 30 completions, an 81.1 completion percentage, 353 passing yards and 35:39 time of possession. A season-long challenge of third-down conversions was addressed as well, with Indianapolis converting 10-of-15 attempts.
The only measure of performance for Indianapolis is victory. That one barometer for judging an outing is shared by Orlovsky, too. Though positive steps were seen by the club's offense, Orlovsky wants improvement, and he knows where he wants to start.
"My goal is for us to go out there and win a game, bar none," said Orlovsky in New England after the game. "The best chance for us to do that is to play well at this position. I just didn't play good enough to win today. I don't care about anything else, really. I'm at the point in my career and life where I just want to win."
Orlovsky joined Indianapolis this year as a free agent after spending 2005-09 with Detroit and the 2010 season with Houston. He started seven games in 2008, and he had played in 10 career contests prior to joining the Colts.
Orlovsky appeared in relief of Curtis Painter in his three previous games with Indianapolis before starting at New England. Orlovsky completed 30-of-37 passes for 353 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, earning a 113.2 rating on Sunday.
Orlovsky hit his first seven attempts of the game. He directed a 21-point fourth quarter by hitting 18-of-20 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns on the club's three scoring drives. Of quarterbacks making their first starts with the Colts during the Indianapolis era, Orlovsky set club marks in completions, yards, percentage and touchdowns.
"I felt comfortable and confident," said Orlovsky. "I did not do enough or play well enough for us to win a ballgame, and that's my job. I'm disappointed in that. Everything else really just doesn't matter to me. We'll watch the film, continue to work at it, try to get better and we get another shot on Sunday."
The Colts knotted the game early in the second quarter with a 19-play, 67-yard drive that took 10:19 off the clock. The drive kept a potent New England offense off the field for a large period of time. Indianapolis reached the Patriots' one-yard line before a penalty and sack ended the drive. Kicker Adam Vinatieri booted a 31-yard field goal to pull Indianapolis even. It was an impressive drive, but one that Orlovsky and the unit wishes had ended more successfully.
"We had a nice drive, but usually nice drives end in touchdowns. We didn't do that there, so that's something we will have to work on," said Orlovsky in his post-game availability.
Two subsequent Indianapolis drives in the second quarter ended in punts. New England capitalized both time by scoring touchdowns for a 17-3 advantage at the break. Quarterback Tom Brady kept the pressure on Indianapolis to start the second half by directing another touchdown drive, then a fumble by rookie running back Delone Carter ended the Colts' first possession of the second half.
Orlovsky directed three touchdown drives to tighten the game. Running back Donald Brown tallied on a five-yard rush with a little more than 10 minutes remaining. It was an 86-yard drive by Indianapolis.
Orlovsky suffered his lone interception moments later, but the Indianapolis defense forced a three-and-out. The offense took advantage with a 93-yard drive where Orlovsky hit seven-of-eight passes for 86 yards, the last 33 coming on a strike to wide receiver Pierre Garcon.
Indianapolis got the ball back once more with 1:43 to go. Orlovsky hit five straight passes for 90 yards to get the Colts in the end zone. He teamed with Garcon again, this time from 12 yards out for the tally with 36 seconds remaining. Indianapolis could not recover an onside kick, and New England ended the game.
Orlovsky teamed with Garcon nine times for 150 yards and two scores, with all but a 13-yard reception coming in the final quarter. Colts wide receivers caught 21 passes for 275 yards, the best numbers in a game this year by the unit. Orlovsky cited the play of his teammates.
"Pierre is a good football player. He's proven that, no matter who is throwing to him," said Orlovsky. "He's a great receiver. All of our guys have the ability to make plays and beat coverage. I think highly of all our guys.
"There were guys making plays when plays presented themselves. We need to continue to do that. At the end of the day, we just didn't do enough to win. That's on all of us, and it starts with me. We have a lot of work to get done. Hopefully, we'll get a lot fixed this week."
As for himself, Orlovsky liked the feel he had directing the attack.
"I felt good," said Orlovsky. "I felt confident. I felt comfortable. I thought the guys up front did a great job. We were communicating well. Hopefully, we can do some things better this week and get us a win."
Indianapolis enters the final quarter of the season with the intent of finishing as strongly as possible. It still is a large percentage of the season to be played, and Orlovsky is sure it will be a 53-man squad giving its all. He sees no other way that he or the team would approach the remaining games.
"I don't know any other way to do it," said Orlovsky. "I don't think this team knows any other way to do it. We'll continue to work.
"(We need to) continue to try and see the things that we might done well and improve on that. (We need to) see the things we didn't do well enough and fix them. Hopefully, (we'll) give ourselves an opportunity next Sunday (at Baltimore) to go win. Then, do enough to win, that's the bottom line."