By Erik Frenz (Twitter: @ErikFrenz)
Cold, Hard Football Facts Patriots beat writer
Dan Orlovsky may not have much of a future as an NFL quarterback. But his performance on Sunday against the New England Patriots may bode well for his future as an interior decorator. You put the great start and the hot finish on the outside, leave all the junk in the middle and you have a perfectly symmetrical performance you could proudly show off to Delta Burke of Designing Women
When the Patriots took the field on Sunday, they were 21-point favorites. when they went into the locker room up 14 at halftime, that spread appeared generous. It looked like it might get even worse with New England up 28 in the fourth quarter. By the time the clock read quadruple zeroes, Dan Orlovsky had nearly engineered a comeback, but fell just four points shorter of that comeback than Peyton Manning did last year.
And on that note, the game was surprisingly close in the end, even if New England outplayed Indy for a long stretch of the game.
There are some things to be considered in New England's closer-than-expected win over the Colts. For one, most of Dan Orlovsky's production came in garbage time, with the Patriots up 28 points (then 21...then 14...then 7). However, the fact can't be debated that the Colts climbed back into the game and, were it not for a failed conversion on an onside kick, would have had a chance to send the game to overtime.
Both the hot start, the long drought, and the strong finish could immediately be linked to Orlovsky's play. After starting hot, going 7-for-8 on Indy's second drive, it got ugly as Orlovsky reverted to the Orlovsky we know. Magically, he put on his Peyton Manning hat and threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
He had the best game of his career with a 113.2 passer rating, but the Colts ultimately fell short of a win and thus, he retains the nickname "0-16rlovsky."
The other key cog in Indy's near comeback was Garcon, who was on the receiving end of both of Orlovsky's touchdown passes. He finished the game with nine receptions for 150 yards and the two scores.
He ran a nice route against safety Sterling Moore, who was playing cornerback on the play, and faked him out for a 33-yard score.
His performance was further evidence of the season-long problems on the back end of New England's defense. Which leads me to...
The Patriots defense
There is no defense for no defense in the fourth quarter. Especially not against Dan Orlovsky. Granted, the Colts have some talented skill position players on offense, but to allow Orlovsky to throw for 353 yards and a passer rating of 113.2? To force just seven incompletions? And to have most of those be just terrible throws by 0-16rlovsky?
The defense had been steadily improving against bad opponents over the past few weeks, but if you stlll had questions about this defense in the playoffs before today, the defense did very little to inspire confidence today. And if you didn't have questions about this defense, you certainly do now.
After surrendering 353 yards to Orlovsky, New England is on pace to allow 5,200 yards through the air, the most in NFL history. Put another way, the 2011 Patriots make every quarterback look more prolific than Dan Marino in 1984, who set a record that season with 5,084 passing yards.
New England had been improving on third down, but allowed the Colts to convert 10 of 15 third downs on Sunday. Even the one area the Patriots had been relatively successful -- making stops in the red zone -- was a struggle today. The Colts scored on two of three red zone possessions.
"Mixed bag" doesn't begin to describe this defense. The Patriots have been a bag of trail mix -- some sweet chocolate, some crunchy almonds and cashews, some flavorless granola, and a whole host of other stuff you can't identify but eat anyway. We'll see if the Patriots can ride that trail mix defense on a deep run in the playoffs, or if they'll get eaten up by their first opponent as they have for their past three playoff opportunities.