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Peyton Manning hangs his head as his Broncos go down 39-33 in his first game back in Indianapolis since the Colts traded him to Denver.
INDIANAPOLIS – Lucas Oil Stadium may be the House that Peyton Manning built but after Sunday night, there isn’t any doubt that Andrew Luck has taken over the penthouse. And didn’t it work out wonderfully for Jim Irsay?
Oddly, Peyton Manning may now have to wait until the post-season – that part of the year he hasn’t completely mastered – to force Irsay to eat his untimely words. The best quarterback in regular season history took what had been an unstoppable offense into his old haunt where he ran into a hungry Indy pass rush and an unflappable Luck.
In the end, he put a scare into the crowd that saluted him before the game, bringing the Broncos back from 19 points to within six. But four turnovers (two by Manning) and 11 penalties ultimately sent the Broncos to their first loss of the year, 39-33.
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Andrew Luck (c.) celebrates with teammates Coby Fleener (l.) and T.Y. Hilton after running in for a touchdown against the Broncos.
It shouldn’t be a total surprise. This is how the Colts beat up the 49ers and Seahawks, two of the best teams in the NFC.
They can certainly play with the big boys, starting with their second-year quarterback. Luck, whom Irsay is apparently counting on for the multiple Super Bowl titles that Manning didn’t produce, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.
Manning finished 29-49-386 with three TDs and one INT but, for a long while, he didn’t seem right after taking a big blindside hit from Robert Mathis, the ex-teammate who was on his mind all week more than Irsay. The sack-fumble for a safety was the turning point of the game that came with 9:01 left in the second quarter and was the first of four straight unanswered scores.
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Manning finds himself under pressure all evening long.
Finally, with Manning trying to engineer the 50th fourth quarter or overtime comeback of his career, Ronnie Hillman fumbled the ball away inside the Colts’ five-yard line. Matt Prater would kick a 47-yard field goal with 12 seconds left. The Colts corralled the onside kick and that was it.
The Colts gave Peyton his props when, with retired old teammates Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James and Jeff Saturday in the house, the Colts put up a video tribute as the Broncos came out of the tunnel. When the scoreboard showed him lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy and “Thanks Peyton” came on the screen, the roars got loud. Manning stopped his warmup tosses, took off his helmet and waved to the crowd. Eventually, he patted his heat and nodded his head. At the coin toss, Luck patted him on the shoulder and Manning said a few words to him.
It looked good early for Peyton. On the Broncos’ second possession, he covered 56 yards on two passes and a TD to Eric Decker. It would soon change as two turnovers, including one by Manning, helped send the Colts into halftime with a 26-14 lead.
Trindon Holliday’s fumbled punt at the Denver 11, reversed after a challenge, was followed one play later by Darrius Heyward-Bey’s first TD catch as Colt. And after the Broncos regained the lead, 14-10, on a great juggling catch by tight end Julius Thomas, the momentum swung in the Colts’ favor.
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Luck and Manning shake hands.
On a third and seven from his own nine, Manning was reunited with Mathis in a bad way as the big defensive end beat LT Chris Clark and obliterated his old QB, jarring loose the football. Erik Walden was unable to control the ball before he slid out of the end zone so it was a safety, not a touchdown.
But the ruling actually worked against the Broncos. Instead of Manning getting the ball back, Luck took over after a free kick and moved the Colts yards to a TD in plays with fullback Stanley Havili catching a pass in the flat and taking it 20 yards. Just as on Luck’s first scoring pass to Heyward-Bey, the Colts got Havili matched up on a defensive end after putting him in motion. Luck had a made a great play to set it up when he got away from Von Miller for a 10-yard scramble on third down.
Out of synch and out of rhythm and out of any sort of field position, Manning threw a couple of bad passes that made you wonder if the Mathis hit hurt him. A punt after a three-and-out series set up a six-play, 50-yard drive that Luck capped off with an eight-yard TD pass to Coby Fleener, Luck’s teammate at Stanford who made three key catches on the drive.
Manning had to be happy to get into the visitor’s lockerroom. By the end of the night, he was happy to get out of town.