Some games don’t please anyone. Obviously, the losers, the Indianapolis Colts, weren’t happy with an awful first half and overall losing 31-24, but the Denver Broncos weren’t exactly proud of how they almost let the game slip away from them. Peyton Manning needed his defense, which made things very difficult for Andrew Luck all game long, to pick up the slack.
Much has been said about the Broncos making huge additions to their defense in order to fix whatever it was that made them crumble in the Super Bowl. They’ve spent over $100 million on new contracts, which includes DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib. Ware made his first non-Dallas game a memorable one with 1.5 sacks and the Broncos got to Luck three times with sacks, intercepting him twice, both by Rahim Moore.
The worries about Wes Welker being suspended turned out to be real ones in the second half, when the Broncos couldn’t convert on third downs. However, during the first half no one remembered that anyone was missing. The Broncos raced to a 24-0 lead as Peyton Manning carved up the defense of his former team, becoming only the second player in NFL history to beat all 32 teams in the league after losing to the Colts with the Broncos last season.
Manning connected with Julius Thomas three times for a touchdown. Thomas became the second Broncos player with three touchdown receptions in one game, joining Shannon Sharpe, who ended up winning three Super Bowls (two with the Broncos) and is a Hall of Fame inductee. Manning finished with 269 passing yards and three touchdowns, getting solid protection, sacked just once by Indy’s pass rush, finding it very difficult to actually get in his way.
Andrew Luck rushing for a nine-yard touchdown at the end of the second quarter changed the game and put the Colts back in it. They clawed their way back from the 0-24 hole by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, while the Broncos struggled in moving the ball forward and gaining any kind of offensive momentum. Luck found Hakeem Nicks for the touchdown, his first for the Colts, and 3:26 left on the clock. Just under 30 seconds later, the Colts got the ball back, after another Denver three-and-out.
The Colts didn’t get past midfield as a pass was broken up on fourth and six. Something that happened quite a lot in this game was Broncos players getting their hands on Luck’s passes. His protection was awful behind a patched up offensive line, and although he did finish with two touchdown passes and 370 yards, this wasn’t the kind of performance Chuck Pagano wanted to see from the guys protecting his most valuable asset.
This was the kind of loss that the Colts won’t feel too disappointed about, if that’s even possible for pro players. There are the Broncos, and it was Peyton Manning. The Broncos won’t go away from this win feeling too high about themselves either, which is an excellent way to keep getting better as teams find out a lot more about themselves thanks to the season finally starting.