Dan Orlovsky Nearly Leads Colts on What Would Have Been a Great Comeback

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIIDecember 4, 2011

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Dan Orlovsky #6 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to pass in the first half against the New England Patriots on December 4, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Colts did what they usually have done the last several seasons against New England, and that's trailed at halftime. The Colts trailed 17-3 today at the halftime break.

We've been spoiled by having Peyton Manning behind center, and really never having to worry about the game getting out of hand. Manning would lead the Colts back and stage great comebacks in NFL history against the Patriots in these scenarios.

Today we thought this game was over at 17-3, and most people probably turned the game off when it was 31-3 going into the fourth quarter.

Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky tried his best Peyton Manning impression and nearly led the Colts back in the 31-24 loss in Gillette Stadium. If the Colts would have recovered one of their two onside kicks at the end, this outcome would most likely be different.

Orlovsky finished the game 30 for 37 with 353 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

After a Donald Brown five-yard touchdown run—his fourth of the season (career high)—the Colts held New England to a three-in-out. Indianapolis got the ball back, and Orlovsky hit Pierre Garcon on his first touchdown pass since 2008 on a great 33-yard pass down the right side of the field. That capped a great 11-play, 93-yard drive with 4:15 left to cut into the Patriots 31-10 lead to make it 31-17.

After a three-and-out for the Patriots, Orlovsky led the Colts on another great drive and hit Garcon for his second touchdown pass of the quarter and of the game with a 12-yard strike to the corner of the endzone.

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This closed the gap to 31-24 with an onside kick looming. Unfortunately, New England recovered, which halted the Colts comeback and gave the Patriots the win.

Either way you look at it, the Colts scored 21 unanswered points in the last 8:49 of the game.

Applaud Dan Orlovsky on this comeback. He led this Colts offense to more yards than New England 437-366. He outperformed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and the Colts led the time of possession 35:39-24:21.

Orlovsky hit eight different receivers with Pierre Garcon leading the way with nine receptions, 150 yards, and two touchdowns. Austin Collie made a great comeback performance with seven receptions and 70 yards, and Reggie Wayne and tight end Jacob Tamme each having five receptions of their own.

If you want to look at the moment where the game was lost, it was in the second quarter.

Blame Jim Caldwell, blame Bill Polian, and blame this terrible defense.

Why did they not make the quarterback and defensive coordinator changes in the bye week?

They made new quarterback Dan Orlovsky and the new defensive coordinator, who hasn't called plays since the Colts were in Baltimore, start on two days of practice.

Dan Orlovsky did get off to a great start in starting the game 7-for-7, and leading the Colts on a 19-play drive on their second possession that took up most of the first quarter and the start of the second. The 19-play, 68-yard drive lasted 10:19. The Colts had the ball at the New England one and were facing a 3rd-and-goal.

Jim Caldwell made a dumb decision and didn't even have a play ready for third down. Orlovsky stood there confused, and the Colts had to waste a timeout. After the timeout, sub Quinn Ojinnaka made a horrible mistake by committing a false start penalty and pushing the Colts back five yards off the goal line. On the next snap, the guy Ojinnaka replaced, Jeff Lickenback, came back in and played matador by giving a New England defender an open route to sack Orlovsky.

Instead of scoring a touchdown, they were forced to have Adam Vinatieri kick a 31-yard field goal to tie the score at three.

If we score there, the game would have been tied at the end.

The second quarter saw Orlovsky go 0-for-4 and the Colts offense only gaining one total yard.

The defense let this team down in the second quarter—most notably rookie cornerback Chris Rucker.

Rucker set the tone by playing horrible coverage on Patriots receivers and gave up four first downs when the Patriots were facing third and long situations. If he could have stopped even one of those, the Patriots would have punted for the second straight time and gave the Colts hope.

Instead, the Patriots drove down and scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski. That was Gronkowski's seventh touchdown in the last five games. That drive rivaled the Colts' second drive, in that it lasted 16 plays for 86 yards.

The Colts got the ball back late in the quarter trailing 10-3 at this point, but after two bad plays the Colts faced 3rd-and-14. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen called a bonehead run instead of taking a shot at the league's worst pass defense, and the Patriots stopped them and used their first timeout of the half.

The defense then looked like they quit and let New England go down the field with no resistance. It was by far the worst I've ever seen a defense play.

Rucker gave up two more first downs, and Patriots running back Benjarvis Green-Ellis scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left in the half to give the Patriots a 17-3 lead.

If you take out the offensive line problems on the second drive and Rucker not getting beat six times for first downs, the Colts would have won this game.

Blame the coaches for not noticing this and making changes, and the players for making inexcusable mistakes.

The Patriots came out in their first possession after half and beat Rucker once again. The corners were playing more than 10 yards off receivers and the linebackers didn't even look like they wanted to cover anyone.

This resulted in Rob Gronkowski tying the NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end in a season with scoring his 13th touchdown of the season and second of the day. Gronkowski was wide open, as were the other seven Patriots receivers on the drive, totaling seven receptions.

The Colts started a good drive to start the half themselves, but rookie Delone Carter showed us why he's fumble prone by fumbling once again, and the Patriots recovered.

Soft coverage again led to the Patriots scoring another touchdown. The play initially was ruled a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, his third of the day, but scoring changed it to a lateral, which is ruled as a rush. Either way, it was Gronkowski's third of the day. The Patriots now led 31-3.

The Colts (0-12) travel to their old hometown of Baltimore to take on the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens next Sunday at 1p.m. EST on CBS.

At 0-12, the Colts are off to the third worst start in NFL history. Hopefully they can build off this performance and not tie the Detroit Lions of 2008 for the second worse next week.


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