The game everyone has been waiting for gave us a few conclusions – the Denver Broncos are no longer undefeated; Peyton Manning is making big mistakes three games in a row; Andrew Luck is out of that shadow for the Indianapolis Colts and for good, outplaying the original version of him.
It was emotional day for Manning and for plenty of fans, who gave the returning quarterback a standing ovation. However, Manning threw an interception and fumbled the ball for a safety in something that was less than his finest hour, while Andrew Luck was fantastic with three passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and making all the right moves in a 39-33 win for the Indianapolis Colts, giving them their second very big win of the season, cementing their credentials as Super Bowl contenders.
The big surprise was the Broncos not handling the extra pressure the Colts were sending at Peyton Manning, who was sacked four times, and saw more pressure in this game (on 32.1% of his dropbacks) than in any game since the 2009 season, as he completed only 2-of-8 passes against the five-man pass rush. In all he was 29-of-49 for 386 yards, a touchdown and an interception, but that was aided by being behind from the middle of the second quarter, falling 19 points behind at some point.
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. 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.
The Colts have a problem with their running game: Trent Richardson, who also turned one fumble over, can’t get it done on his own, running for only 37 yards on 14 carries. So the Colts move the chains in nontraditional ways: Andrew Luck ran for 29 yards on 4 carries, while Darrius Heyward-Bay added another run for 30 yards. Being creative on both ends of the ball has been the main reason the Colts have been so successful this season.
Luck has been extremely special when it comes to the short passing game this season, and especially against the Broncos, attempting 25 passes for shorter than 10 yards, completing 64% of them. All three of Luck’s touchdown passes came on throws 10 yards or fewer downfield, making it five for him over that distance for the season.
Are the Colts the best team in the NFL, considering they’ve beaten the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos so far? Without a consistent running it’s hard to define them as such, but they have proven more than once that they can win without Andrew Luck being superhuman, thanks to a defense that keeps getting ignored by theoretically superior teams.