It came down to the wire, but in the end, the Indianapolis Colts foiled Peyton Manning's homecoming.
The Denver Broncos fell to 6-1 after turnovers and penalties cost them too many points too many times. A 16-point flurry in the fourth quarter wasn't enough to overcome repeated personal foul penalties and a Ronnie Hillman fumble at the goal line late in the fourth quarter, and the Colts went on to beat the previously unbeaten Broncos, 39-33.
The Colts improved to 5-2 on the season.
Manning was impressive to close the game, but it came too late, as an inconsistent showing from the NFL's leading passer was too much for an undisciplined team to overcome. Colts defenders swarmed Manning throughout the game - his former teammate Robert Mathis sacked him twice - while Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson was flagged three times for personal foul penalties that cost the Broncos 45 yards in penalties.
The Broncos coughed up four turnovers in the game, including one Peyton Manning interception, while also surrendering a strip-sack safety in the second quarter that seemed to rattle Manning for the next two quarters.
"Give them a lot of credit," said Manning. "We couldn't find much of a rhythm."
When Manning did find a rhythm, shades of the Broncos' record-setting season could be seen. Denver's score of 33 was a season low, but it was still 33 points, with Eric Decker and Wes Welker leading the Broncos' passing charge with 246 receiving yards between them. Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas each hauled in touchdowns, giving Manning a 386-yard passing performance with three touchdowns and one interception.
Luck had a strong first half but slowed in the second; he finished with only 228 passing yards, but he had four touchdowns on the day - three through the air and one on the ground.
The Broncos will take this loss and try to learn from it.
"This is a game we need to learn from," Manning said, then noted: "We had four turnovers and still somehow had a chance to win that game."
All is not lost; the Broncos' future in 2013 is still bright, especially if Denver can get healthy at linebacker and tackle, or adjust to their missing players.