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Former UConn QB Orlovsky has Positive Starting Debut in Loss to Pats

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FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 4: Dan Orlovsky #6 of the Indianapolis Colts reacts after a missed chance against the New England Patriots in the first half at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 4: Dan Orlovsky #6 of the Indianapolis Colts reacts after a missed chance against the New England Patriots in the first half at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) _ Patient and poised, first-time starter
Dan Orlovsky led the Indianapolis Colts within a yard of taking a
lead on the New England Patriots.

The surprises pretty much ended right there at the New England
1-yard line early in the second quarter. A penalty and a sack
quickly turned the touchdown opportunity into a field goal, and
then the Colts’ troubles really began.

The Patriots (9-3) scored two touchdowns in the last 2:57 of the
first half, then piled on two more in the third quarter before the
winless Colts rallied too late in a 31-24 loss Sunday.

“Guys played well and did some things well, but you’re still
measured by wins,” Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell said.

Orlovsky is the latest quarterback called upon by the Colts as
starter Peyton Manning continues his recovery from neck surgery. He
completed 30 of 37 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns, but the
Colts couldn’t overcome New England’s surge of 28 straight points.

Manning was on the sideline once again, offering any help he
could as he hoped to see his teammates rally without him. The Colts
did make it interesting in the fourth when Donald Brown ran for a
5-yard touchdown, and Orlovsky and Pierre Garcon connected for a
pair of touchdowns.

That gave Indianapolis a glimmer of hope before Deion Branch
recovered the onside kick for New England with 34 seconds left.

“There were a lot of positives at the end of the game, but we
should have played like that the entire game,” said Garcon, who
finished with nine catches for 150 yards.

Manning said he expects to increase his physical rehabilitation
this week with more throwing, but is still uncertain whether he
will be on the field at all this season.

“You just can’t help quite as much when you’re not playing.
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,” Manning said. “Being 0-12
is frustrating for everybody in our building. It’s disappointing. I
hate everything about it.”

The Patriots have won four in a row. Indianapolis must beat
Baltimore, Tennessee, Houston or Jacksonville to avoid becoming the
second NFL team to go 0-16.

The Patriots entered as three-touchdown favorites with the
teams, from different divisions, meeting for the ninth straight
season.

With two touchdown passes, both to Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
overtook Johnny Unitas and tied Warren Moon for sixth place in NFL
history with 291 during the regular season. Brady completed 29 of
38 for 293 yards.

Caldwell gave Orlovsky his first start of the season in place of
the ineffective Curtis Painter. While Orlovsky played well, 240 of
his passing yards came in the fourth quarter and in the end he
could not lead the Colts to their first win of the season.

“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.”

The Colts tied it at 3 on Adam Vinatieri’s 31-yard field goal
early in the second quarter. And the Patriots punted on their next
series.

Then Brady got the offense rolling as New England scored
touchdowns on its next four possessions, taking a 31-3 lead late in
the third quarter.

The Colts had a new defensive coordinator, linebackers coach
Mike Murphy, after Larry Coyer was fired Tuesday.

But the Patriots rarely lose in December, no matter their
opponent. They’re 38-5 in that month starting in 2001, tops in the
NFL. And they’re 19-1 at home in December, with wins in their last
18 games, since Gillette Stadium opened in December 2002.

Gronkowski has 13 touchdown catches, tying San Diego’s Antonio
Gates in 2004 and San Francisco’s Vernon Davis in 2009 for most by
a tight end in a regular season. He originally was given another
touchdown catch, but that was changed to a lateral on which he ran
2 yards for the 31-3 lead.

Thinking he had set the record, Gronkowski held onto the ball as
a souvenir instead of spiking it as he usually does. He even
accepted congratulations from his teammates on the bench.

Trailing 3-0, Orlovsky led a 19-play drive lasting 10:19. The
Colts had first-and-goal at the 1, but a run for no gain, an
incompletion, a false-start penalty and a sack forced them to
settle for Vinatieri’s field goal.

New England finally took command by scoring twice in the last
three minutes of the first half on Brady’s 11-yard pass to
Gronkowski and BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 1-yard run for a 17-3 lead.

The Patriots got the ball to start the third quarter and Brady
passed on each of the seven plays, completing all of them to drive
77 yards, ending with a 21-yard touchdown to Gronkowski. After Kyle
Arrington recovered Delone Carter’s fumble on the next series,
Gronkowski scored again when he went in motion, took a pitch from
Brady and ran untouched into the right side of the end zone.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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