INDIANAPOLIS – Dan Orlovsky has been the starting quarterback for Indianapolis the last two weeks.
His third straight start will find him toiling in Lucas Oil Stadium for the second time as a performer who answered the starting bell.
Orlovsky will be wearing the home colors this Sunday when the Colts host divisional rival Tennessee. The last time he played in front Indianapolis fans as a starter was in 2008 when Detroit visited in week 15.
Orlovsky hit 23-of-34 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown that day for the Lions, and he noticed the raucous atmosphere in the stadium.
He has played in reserve roles this year for Curtis Painter at home, and now Orlovsky looks forward to starting this week in front a full house.
"Yes, big time," said Orlovsky on how much he anticipates this Sunday. "I think it's probably one of the better crowds I've been in front of, having the opportunity to play here when I was in Detroit (2008) and then the few games I've been around at home this year. I think the crowd speaks for itself in how enthusiastic and passionate they are about their team. It will be a nice opportunity to go out and play in front of them. I know it's my responsibility to give them something to cheer about, too. Hopefully, it will be a win-win for both sides.
"I've been around the home crowd for six games or something like that, maybe not even that. I know what the community stands for and this town and the expectation level they have and the teams they've been able to watch play for a long time. I think it's a great crowd. Hopefully, we give them something to cheer for. People throw around in all aspects of sports (the term), 'fair weather fans.' A fan is someone who likes to watch something good. I think we need to do our part in giving them something to cheer for on Sunday, and (something to) get excited about and leave the game feeling good.
"I'm excited to play in front of them. I know this team is important to them. I know this rivalry and this division is important to them, too. It will be nice to get home and play in front of them."
Not all people in the stadium want this to be a good outing for Orlovsky and the Colts. Tennessee invades the stadium with a 7-6 record that still has the Titans fighting for a playoff berth. A difficult home loss last week to New Orleans has left Tennessee little margin for error in a crowded playoff hunt.
The Titans visit with a defense that ranks 22nd overall in yardage per game, but in yielding 251 points in 13 outings, they rank sixth in the league in points allowed.
Orlovsky is familiar with the Titans having been with Houston in 2009 and 2010. Meeting Tennessee is a strap-it-on proposition.
"It's a different Tennessee team than kind of what I had known down in Houston (in 2009-10), a new head coach, same players but kind of different scheme-wise," said Orlovsky. "(It's) still the same characters, guys who are going to play hard and play fast and play tough. They're going to hit you. I think I know what they stand for. I think a lot of people do. They're a good team, right in the heart of a playoff race for themselves. It's a tremendous test for us this weekend.
"Their defense is pretty much intact from what it has been. I just think you know what they're about. They're going to play hard. They are a tough team. They are a good team. Any time you have been as successful as they have been for a long time, just like this place (Indianapolis) has been, you know what you're going to get."
Tennessee has held eight opponents below 20 points. Last week against New Orleans, the Titans kept one of the NFL's most potent offenses to 22 points. Tennessee twice had the ball deep in Saints territory in the final minutes, but could not score a touchdown to overcome a five-point deficit.
When asked to pinpoint exactly what makes Tennessee such a formidable defensive bunch, Orlovsky took the 'all of the above' approach.
"I would say everything," said Orlovsky. "I think they do a really good job of doing everything well. When they have 11 guys on the field, all 11 are playing. No matter who the 11 are, they're playing really well together. They don't have a weakness. They're not giving up a ton of yards. When you get down in the red zone, they're not giving up a ton of touchdowns. They make you play 60 minutes, and they make you beat them for 60 minutes. They don't give up a lot of big plays. They don't have a lot of open weaknesses. They don't make a lot of mistakes. I think their mindset is they're going to play better over 60 minutes than you're going to play.
"It's a challenge. It's a pretty danged good defense, even in comparison to last week's (in Baltimore). I can't see a massive difference as far as production. I think scheme-wise they do things differently (than the Ravens). They're playing extremely well."
Tennessee's top four tacklers are in the secondary, led by Jordan Babineaux with 100 stops. Jason McCourty has 87 stops and two interceptions. Karl Klug tops the Titans with six sacks.
Tennessee beat Indianapolis in week eight in Nashville, 30-7. The Titans jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead, spurred by a special teams touchdown. It was one of five times this year an opponent has scored 17 or more points before Indianapolis was able to score itself. Last week, Baltimore jumped to a 17-0 edge before the Colts got on the scoreboard.
Indianapolis will be hoping to overcome a season-long problem of third-down conversions. After being successful 10 of 15 times two weeks ago at New England, Indianapolis was two-of-14 at Baltimore. Lack of positive plays on first and second downs contributed to long attempts on third down, and Indianapolis had five three-and-out possessions.
It is an area of focus this week for the Colts.
"We did a really good job against New England of getting ourselves into good second-down and good third-down situations," said Orlovsky. "We didn't do that against Baltimore. We got off track far too often. The big thing is for us to be productive on first and second down so when we do get to third down (they are) more manageable third downs. You can kind of know what the defense is going to give you more than give them the opportunity to do a lot of different things. Give yourself a higher percentage to convert those third downs. I think giving ourselves better opportunities on first and second down to be successful, then executing on those downs will be a huge benefit for us."