Manning topped by Luck on homecoming
It was just Peyton Manning's luck - on his first trip back to Lucas Oil Stadium, he and his teammates had an off night. His successor and his old team, they got it right.
Andrew Luck threw three touchdown passes and ran for another on Sunday night, handing Denver a 39-33 loss - their first of the season - without even needing one of Luck's trademark fourth-quarter comebacks.
"It's not real fun watching him," Luck said of Manning. "But he is something to watch."
Admittedly, this was no typical night for Manning. Indianapolis' former franchise quarterback dealt with questions all week about owner Jim Irsay's most recent comments expressing disappointment with winning just one Super Bowl title during the Manning years.
And when he first ran onto the field, some sections in the lower bowl looked like a checkerboard of Colts blue and Broncos orange. They roared for No. 18 throughout a 90-second video tribute featuring some of his most memorable moments with the Colts including the record-breaking pass to Marvin Harrison for most TDs by a quarterback-receiver duo, the AFC championship comeback against New England and, of course, the evening when he finally hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in rainy Miami.
Manning responded to the standing ovation by stopping his warm-up throws, taking off his helmet, waving to the fans and mouthing the words "Thank you."
The large video screen then cut to a fan holding a sign that that read "Thanks Peyton But Tonight I'm A Colts Fan."
Heading into the game, Manning and Denver (6-1) looked virtually unbeatable. The Broncos were scoring points by the dozens in the midst of a 17-game regular-season winning streak and showed no signs of even hitting a speed bump.
Then came what was supposed to be Manning's happy homecoming. Nothing went right and now the Kansas City Chiefs are the NFL's lone unbeaten team. He lost a fumble, threw an interception and was sacked four times - twice by Robert Mathis, one of the few remaining holdovers from the Manning era.
Broncos kick returner Trindon Holliday fumbled twice, losing one that led to a Colts touchdown.
Denver's defence committed inexplicable penalties throughout the second half, giving the Colts more opportunities than they needed, and the Broncos' last good chance fizzled out when Denver running back Ronnie Hillman lost a fumble inside the Colts' five-yard line with 3:03 left in the game.
With Luck and the Colts repeatedly taking advantage, even Manning couldn't rescue the Broncos.
While Manning finished with three TD passes, he certainly wasn't himself. Passes fluttered, passes sailed, passes were broken up.
Indianapolis (5-2) extended their lead in the AFC South and still haven't lost consecutive games since Luck arrived in the NFL last year.
"This is a game we need to learn from. We, I guess, had four turnovers and still somehow had a chance to win that game," Manning said. "I would have liked to have seen it go to a two-point game down there toward the end and see what would have happened, but it never quite got to that point. You can go back to different parts of the game and we got behind, mistakes there, but we still had a chance there at the end. We certainly have to improve from this game because we weren't as sharp execution-wise as we'd like to be."
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