The scoreboard showed a blowout for most of the game. But as Andrew Luck and company so often have, the Indianapolis Colts came roaring back.
Up 24-7 at halftime and even up 31-10 with 9:51 left in the fourth quarter, the Broncos weren't safe. The Colts scored a touchdown, recovered an onside kick, then scored another touchdown in the fourth quarter. A three-and-out by the Broncos gave the Colts yet another opportunity, but the Broncos defense held on when it mattered. Bradley Roby defended a fourth down Luck pass and the Broncos went on to win, 31-24.
"Obviously we would have liked to have kept the ball there at the end, and out of their offense's hands, but our defense stepped up when it had to all night," Peyton Manning said. "Rahim (Moore) had a couple of great interceptions.... It was a good team win."
Peyton Manning's first drive might as well have been called Montee Ball's first drive. The Broncos marched down 77 yards in over six minutes but had to settle for a field goal after Manning fired incompletions on all three goal-to-go downs. Montee Ball and C.J. Anderson combined for 33 rushing yards on just five carries. Ball boasted four of the carries.
Those three incompletions were a sign of things to come. The second half was all Indianapolis.
After taking a 24-0 lead, the Broncos had a 271-62 edge in total yardage. Since then, the Colts have out-gained the Broncos 271-98.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 8, 2014
But the rest of Manning's first half drives belonged to Julius Thomas. Missing Wes Welker, the Broncos lined up heavily in two tight end sets, leading to Thomas' big three-touchdown night. Thomas scored from three, 35, and five yards out, leading all Denver receivers with seven receptions and 104 yards.
"Julius has had a good offseason," Peyton said after the game. "He and I spent a lot of time working this offseason. He really wanted to step his game up, and I think he certainly did that tonight."
The Colts' second half comeback might have been even worse, had it not been for two Broncos defensive goal line stands. Quinton Carter and Brandon Marshall each made huge stops in the first stand; the Colts suffered a turnover on downs thanks to Marshall's tackle on a QB-sneaking Luck. Then, two series later, DeMarcus Ware sacked Andrew Luck to force an Indianapolis Colts field goal.
Rahim Moore boasted two interceptions in the game, both off tips. "It's been a long time coming," he admitted after the game. "We played great football. It was kind of ugly for a little bit, but when you win, it's a great day in the NFL."
This game has an unresolved feeling to it. Peyton Manning and the Broncos weren't able to run the clock out, which just felt odd. The defense had dominating goal line stands, then head-scratching, sloppy pushing-instead-of-tackling. The Broncos escaped with a win against a quarterback quickly joining the ranks of the "elite," which is impressive, but it was uglier than it needed to be.
But at the end of the day, a win is a win.
A win is a win is a win. Not our best effort but mission accomplished. 1-0— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) September 8, 2014