If you didn’t know that the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis was over, you do now. Chance may favor the prepared, but that amount of (Andrew) Luck was a little too much for the Denver Broncos, who dropped their first game of the season, and coincidentally fell to second place in the AFC West. Final score? 39-33.
That 16-point win against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week is looking pretty good now, isn’t it?
The man of the hour before the game was Manning, who was honored with a 90-second video tribute before kickoff. The man of the game was Lucas Oil’s new throne occupant, who went 21-for-38 for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Luck also ran one in for the score himself.
The Broncos made a valiant effort to drown out their troubled first three quarters. Down 36-17 with 13 minutes left, they made it a 36-30 ball game until Manning threw a pick more than midway through the quarter. Another Indy field goal, some stout defense from the Colts, a Ronnie Hillman fumble near the goal line (where was Knowshon Moreno on that one?), and a Vlade Divac-like flop from Luck (a.k.a. Kevin Vickerson’s penalty) closed the stable doors.
The Broncos’ defense looked sleepy in Naptown. In a game that was Von Miller’s first since his suspension was lifted, the biggest notable was middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard’s absence. It’s easy to tell who the leader of this defense is.
Miller finished with a quiet two tackles including one for a loss while Champ Bailey left the game in the first half with another foot injury. Don’t expect to see him back until after the bye.
There’s no place like home, but for Manning, it’s clear that home is now Denver. He went 29-for-49 for 386 yards for three touchdowns, and threw an interception. His main target was Eric Decker with 8 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown. The main problem for Manning, however, was simply that he had a makeshift offensive line. Replacing starting left tackle Ryan Clady, Chris Clark was manhandled all evening by Robert Mathis, who moved to the defensive right side after testing out Louis Vasquez early in the game. Clark’s biggest mistake came when he gave up a sack, which lead to a safety. The Broncos gave up 4 sacks after giving up only 5 all season. Those sacks don’t include all the times that Manning was hit as he threw the ball.
Unfocused play showed up on special teams, too. Trindon Holliday had the ball stripped on a punt return, which resulted in a Colts touchdown just one play later at the end of the first quarter.
Too many mistakes including 12 penalties for 103 yards finally caught up with the team. It was just the right storm to brew, and ultimately this one showed that the Broncos are in fact human, nothing more, nothing less. Perhaps this game is a wakeup call. The Broncos had not lost in the regular season since October 7, 2012. They’ll look to learn from this one and come back refocused for Mike Shanahan’s return next week and then for the second half of the season after the bye.
Better this happens now than in January. Every unhappy Bronco in that locker room would agree.