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Broncos 24, Colts 27: Highlights and lowlights

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Peyton Manning was both a lowlight and a highlight Sunday (just look at the first half vs. the second).

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos lost 24-27 to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9. While we wish were giving Game Balls, we can't - not when the Broncos lose. Instead, the MHR staff will hit upon both the good and bad in our Highlights and Lowlights. Unlike Game Balls, these can go to people, places, things, or abstract, enigmatic philosophies. Ready, go!

Highlights

Owen Daniels

Owen Daniels' six-catch, 102-yard and one-etouchdown game was an eye-opening performance that certainly merits praise.  Is it any coincidence that he had his best game of the year during the week the Broncos acquired former Pro-Bowl tight end Vernon Davis?  I think not. He may not be the best tight end in the game (or the quickest for that matter!), but the Broncos do have a solid receiving option and safety valve in Daniels. - Christopher Hart

Tight end production

Owen Daniels found the fountain of youth these past few weeks. It was great to see him keeping that going. Sure, he's really slow, but he's finding ways to finally be productive. Perhaps it's no coincidence that his best game of the year came mere days after Pro Bowl Tight End Vernon Davis was traded for? Virgil Green also found his way into the game as did Davis, which I was pleasantly surprised to see. I expected Davis to be a gameday inactive or see zero snaps as he learns a new language and gets adjusted to this team. If our tight end play continues to improve, then we will be that much more dangerous when the weather turns cold and snowy, especially in January. - Big Pete

T.J. Ward

TJ Ward had a pretty incredible game that many may not have noticed. He blew up runs, he covered passes. He hit hard and often. His play at strong safety was pretty solid and was one of the few reasons that Colts didn't put a 40-burger on us. - Sadaraine

Malik Jackson

Malik Jackson - that dude was all over the field. 5 tackles, 3 passes batted down, 2 QB hits, 1 TFL. Malik was in on 62 defensive snaps (78% of the total). - Joseph Mahoney

Omar Bolden

Omar Bolden. Probably the last place you would expect a boost would be via a punt return with just seconds to go in a very dismal half. But Bolden wasn't worried about "expected" and thanks to a great block from David Bruton, Jr., gave the team a huge boost of confidence for the second half. And it showed big-time as the Broncos scored on all three of their first drives in the second half. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

Peyton Manning

It started on the first drive, with Peyton Manning testing the Colts for weaknesses, but what Manning would come to find out is that those weaknesses were in his own receiver's hands. It was a day where Owen Daniels had over 100 yards and a touchdown. That's how good Denver's wide receivers were, Daniels was the best one. Demaryius Thomas would make his first of three drops on the afternoon during the opening drive on 2nd & 10.

Under pressure that will likely be less than an average of 2.3 seconds of pocket protection when all is calculated, Manning was man-handled following nearly every one of his 36 attempts. Broncos receivers would snag 21 of those 36 attempts, Indianapolis defenders caught 5.56% of Manning's passes, Denver receivers? 58%. Manning was sacked one time for a loss of seven yards.

People hate hearing about the drops and penalties, but imagine what would have come from the non-pass interference call on the deep pass to Vernon Davis. Or Emmanuel Sanders grabbing the pass that hit both of his hands. It's rough out here folks: Manning finished 21 of 36 for 281 yards, two touchdowns and two  interceptions.

When Manning was able to step-up in the pocket he delivered a 64-yard touchdown to Sanders. - Ian Henson

It's easy to focus on the two Manning interceptions and forget that he was pretty dang efficient yesterday. He averaged almost 8 yards per attempt and racked up over 100 yards for Owen Daniels, even with the questionable officiating. The fact that he threw the two interceptions is also an effect of playing down the whole game. Manning was forced to make risky throws on 3rd downs to keep the Broncos in the game.

The offense is still improving, which is exactly what we want halfway through the season. If the defense plays an average game for them, and the officials don't have an apparent investment in the other team winning, I'm confident that the Broncos are the best team in the NFL at the end of the season. They will learn from this and use it as extra motivation in weeks to come. The Broncos are still in control of their own destiny. - Kelly Fleming

Lowlights

Peyton Manning

Manning throwing interceptions this year has been a common theme unfortunately. With two against the Colts on Sunday he has 13 total interceptions through 8 games. That means he's on pace for 26 interceptions. That's Jay Cutler territory ladies and gentlemen. I know there will be excuses for those INTs, but they're happening and they're a problem. You cannot do that against good teams and expect to win. You can throw multiple INTs and still beat the Browns and Raiders. You cannot do that against Andrew Luck and definitely not against the Patriots.

Manning needs to cut down on the turnovers; the defense won't always be there to bail him out.

Manning doesn't deserve all of the blame for this loss. He actually played well outside of those two plays. He just needs to cut down on this turnover problem he is having if the Broncos want to have any success in coming months and into the postseason. As we saw against the Colts, the defense won't always be there to bail you out. - Scotty Payne

The refs

I'm not one to complain too often about the calls or no-calls by Refs because it usually balances out in the end. But even I thought the officiating yesterday was so poor and lopsided enough to be a negative factor. Our defense made its share of bad plays that drew appropriate "personal foul" calls - and there is no excuse for those, but there were way too many bad calls and no calls by the refs to not be "calling" them out today. Whether it was the constant holding on Von Miller, the reversed call on Owen Daniels' "catch," the blatant arm-holding on Vernon Davis that didn't even get a whiff of a PI call or the phantom holding call on Danny Trevathan, the officiating definitely hindered an already suspect Broncos' performance. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

Failed blitzes

Wade Phillips' defense typically thrives on blitzes, but they just weren't working against Andrew Luck. He scrambles too quickly, and is too hard to tackle. The defensive line was missing tackles, leaving the running backs or tight ends wide open in the middle of the field, which translated to a lot of yards for the Colts. Our guys were frustrated and it showed. - Kelly Fleming

Defensive line

The Broncos defensive line lost the battle in the trenches all night long and were consistently blown off the ball.  Sylvester Williams had an absolutely horrendous game in run defense and seemingly was always being pushed off the line.  Perhaps the team should consider keeping rookie nose tackle Darius Kilgo active in order to keep Williams fresh and have another option on the interior part of their defensive line. - Christopher Hart

Sylvester Williams

Sylvester Williams - Sly played 48 defensive snaps and was credited with the same number of tackles as Brandon McManus (one assisted). Sly got his lunch money stolen and I am sure he is going to get an earful from Bill Kollar during the film review. - Joseph Mahoney

Playcalling

The Broncos ran the ball 14 times. Only four of those runs were edge runs (word has it Ronnie Hillman likes those). It seemed like the Broncos were determined to throw in this game. Why? What the hell happened? Did we learn nothing from a Packers victory that saw the ground game return to dominant form? - Monty

John Elway

John Elway, failing to pull the trigger on Joe Thomas (who it was revealed on Sunday wanted out of Cleveland). A left tackle would have been incredible against the Colts. Heck, it may have even solidified the right tackle position for Denver.

Sure, we don't know if Thomas would have played much against Indianapolis, but Denver had no problem rotating every other position on the line aside from the center.

I also understand the premium that Elway and the Broncos may have on 5th and 6th round picks, but what have they done with a 2nd and 3rd round pick ever? Sure, the plan with Ty Sambrailo was likely to have him start at right tackle, but a list of the Broncos 2nd round and 3rd round picks is basically a who's who of who's not going to be on the team next season.

Elway needs to get it done now and at 7-1 they've done an incredible, incredible job, but the fact that they went after Joe Thomas at all shows that they know the issue is there too. What happened, Maverick? You were the top gun. - Ian Henson

Lack of rhythm

What I mean by this is that whether we were on offense or defense, there never seemed to be a flow or rhythm to this game. On offense, it didn't seem like there was a clear path from point A to B. It looked like a bunch of individual plays being called instead of a gameplan with flow being called. On defense I saw a completely confused unit, which happens when a coordinator is fired the week you play a new team. Coaching fires are always scary because you just don't know how that team will respond or how the game will be called. I chalk their confused look up to them having zero ability to know tendencies or calls that the new Colt's coordinator was calling. How can you prepare for a team when they themselves fired their coordinator? It's a virtually impossible task, and when you play undisciplined as it is, these embarrassments can and often do happen. - Big Pete

Aqib Talib

Aqib Talib poking a dude's eyeball. Seriously? - Tim Lynch