We spoke of moral victories in the Huskies final game of the 2011 season, a 35-27 loss to the Bearcats in Cincinnati Saturday. The Colts, annually one of the NFL's best teams suddenly relegated to bottom-of-the-barrel status without their all-world quarterback Peyton Manning, have not only gone winless through 12 games, they have experienced very few moral victories, too.
Well, Sunday against their longtime AFC rival, the Patriots, the Colts lost on the scoreboard but there was reason for excitement. Or, perhaps more precisely, nausea wasn't the overwhelming feeling when the final whistle sounded.
New England won 31-24 but the game was never really close. Heading into the fourth quarter, Indy trailed 31-3. But thanks to their new starting quarterback, former UConn great Dan Orlovsky, the Colts were able to make things respectable. And for an outfit now staring 0-12 in the face that's, well, something.
Orlovsky's final numbers were impressive -- 30 of 37 for 353 yards, two touchdowns and an interception -- but his fourth-quarter totals weren't bad, either: two passing scores to Pierre Garcon and he led three Colts scoring drives.
“There were a lot of positives at the end of the game, but we should have played like that the entire game,” said Garcon, via the Associated Press, who finished with nine catches for 150 yards. The performance won't be enough to prevent head coach Jim Caldwell from getting fired at season's ends but it could be enough to insure that Orlovsky keeps the starting gig for the final four games.
And depending on how that audition goes, it might mean that he -- and not Curtis Painter -- is Manning's No. 2 in 2012. (This assumes, of course, that Manning is healthy enough to return to the field. If he's not, there's roughly a 100 percent chance that the Colts will draft Andrew Luck, in which case, Orlovsky will be his No. 2. Whatever happens, the point remains: Orlovsky's on an extended job interview over the next month and his first game went well.)
“You just can’t help quite as much when you’re not playing," Manning said. "It’s been a new role for me. I don’t think I’m doing very good because we haven’t won any games. But I try to help and just try to be there as a resource for the guys. Being 0-12 is frustrating for everybody in our building. It’s disappointing. I hate everything about it.”
“My goal is to go out there and win a ballgame — bar none,” Orlovsky said. “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.”
It won't get easier, either. The Colts face the Ravens next week.