Kick off for Indianapolis-Denver was a balmy 85 degrees at Mile High as the Broncos offense was up first in an AFC rivalry matchup that the Colts have won 13 of the their 25 meetings. Could the Broncos even that up with a win on Sunday?
First quarter was evidence the entire game would be a hard-fought battle for a win from either team.
Until, of course, Denver's defense caught on fire and lit the Colts - and their QB - up, scoring two touchdowns to put the Broncos over the Colts 34-20 in a huge home win.
With three possessions each in the first quarter, both offenses struggled in the red zone, only to finish tied 3-3 by the end.
Broncos started well with a pair of first-down throws from Trevor Siemian to Emmanuel Sanders before Andy Janovich ran for 11 yards to get another one. But after a couple of short runs, including a six-yarder by C.J. Anderson, Siemian was sacked on 3rd-and-2, setting up a 54-yard attempt from Brandon McManus that went just wide left.
On their first possession, the Colts’ Andrew Luck looked to be in typical form with some nice strikes to T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Frank Gore rumbled for a few good yards before Shane Ray and Darius Kilgo formed a wall on third down to stop the Colts and force an Adam Vinatieri field goal, good from 48 yards. Broncos 0, Colts 3
Adam Vinatieri is AUTOMATIC. 48-yard field goal gives Colts 3-0 lead. Vinatieri's now made 28 straight field goals.— Stampede Blue (@StampedeBlue) September 18, 2016
On Broncos’ second possession, Siemian hit Sanders for a sweet 19-yard gain, but a few plays later he nailed Demaryius Thomas that DT turned into a huge 44-yard play to set up a 1st-and-goal at the 10. After a five-yard gain from Anderson, Siemian missed two easy passes to Sanders in the end zone, so the Broncos had to settle for three on a 23-yard McManus kick. Broncos 3, Colts 3
But the Broncos defense - which was not going to let the Colts embarrass them on their field - came hard and fast, causing two incompletes and a near interception. A punt by the Colts was nearly blocked as Dekoda Watson was taking no prisoners on his way to the ball.
The next possession for the Broncos started with some nice plays by rookie Devontae Booker, including a five-yard pass play and an 11-yard run, but the drive ended on a punt after Thomas dropped a 30-yard pass that went right through his hands. The Broncos’ defense was not going to let the Colts get anywhere on the next drive, and the quarter ended 3-3.
The Broncos’ offense started its first drive of the second quarter on fire, including a 20-yard beauty to Jordan Taylor and a big run from Anderson. On a first-and-goal, DT drew an interference call and after a nice run from Booker, Anderson practically walked into the end zone for the score. Broncos up 10-3.
It was the T.J. Ward/Von Miller show on the next drive as the NoFlyZone forced an incompletion, Ward brought down Gore and Miller finally got his first career sack on Luck to force a punt.
Von Miller’d https://t.co/5fLJ87GSWw— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) September 18, 2016
But the Broncos’ offense couldn’t capitalize on the big defensive stop when Siemian threw an interception to Darius Butler, who would have had an easy pick-six if not for a hamstring injury on his clear path to the end zone.
The ensuing drive from the Colts saw Luck find a big third-down conversion with a 13-yard crossing route to Dwayne Allen, but a run-stuff on the next play from Shane Ray and Miller, followed by an "IN-COM-PLETE!" and finally a huge sack from the Broncos’ version of the Splash Brothers - Miller and DeMarcus Ware - kept the Colts to just another Vinatieri field goal. Broncos 10, Colts 6
Broncos have three legitimately good running backs, what a time to be alive... https://t.co/OzAjY0XHj9— The Orange Page (@theorangepage) September 18, 2016
With just minutes to go in the half, the Broncos got the ball back and did not waste their possession, as Siemian marched the offense down the field on the heels of Anderson and Kapri Bibbs that included a clutch one-handed grab and spin from Anderson on third and 10 to get the first by a yard. A handful of passes to Jordan Norwood and Cody Latimer plus a key out route to Thomas to get out of bounds ultimately led to a 43-yarder from McManus.
Broncos headed into the locker room ahead of the Colts, 13-6. By the numbers, the Broncos completely dominated the first half, though the score indicated differently. Broncos had 15 first downs compared to the Colts' four. Siemian was 17/25 while his more experienced counterpart on the Colts was a mere 5/15, a rare stat for Luck.
The Colts owned the Broncos’ defense to start the third quarter as a few costly penalties and an elbow injury to Ware, plus a big 21-yard gain off the legs of Luck, led to a Colts touchdown via a short pass to running back Robert Turbin, tying the score after a 13-play, 79-yard drive that ate up a chunk of the clock. Broncos 13, Colts 13
DeMarcus Ware not expected to play next week at CIN but week to week after that with fractured forearm. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 19, 2016
But the Broncos bounced back with a field goal of their own on the next drive that stalled down the stretch despite some big gains from Virgil Green and the Anderson-Booker running duo. McManus moved the Broncos back into the lead with a 33-yard field goal just before the end of a very fast-moving third quarter. Broncos 16, Colts 13.
The final quarter began with another costly holding penalty on the Broncos defense, but Aqib Talib made up for that automatic first down when he grabbed his ninth career pick-six, breaking in front of the ball before breaking a bunch of tackles and dancing down the sideline to the end zone. Broncos 23, Colts 13.
That's right, @sonofbum ... throw those arms up! #Broncos defense comes up huge again off Talib's ninth pick-6!! pic.twitter.com/Q1M60Xx5ib— L.Lattimore-Volkmann (@docllv) September 18, 2016
After both teams traded a couple of punts, Luck did what Luck does and marched his Colts down the field thanks to big plays from Doyle, Hilton and Gore. Luck hit Gore on second-and-goal for a seven-yard touchdown pass with less than five minutes to go in the game, bringing the game oh-so-close as the clock wound down to just over four minutes to play. Broncos 23, Colts 20.
Thanks to a rather lucky pass interference call on the Colts, the Broncos had a first down to start their final drive of the game, followed by a legit first down from Green.
Perhaps one of DT's best plays came when Siemian hit him on a quick pass that Thomas added his signature five YACs - along with a very crucial "reach" - and picked up the first down to keep the drive alive. Anderson rumbled to the 17-yard line just short of the first down and just before the two-minute warning. But with no gain on 3rd-and-1, Kubiak went conservative on 4th-and-1, choosing the easy three points rather than the gamble to get a touchdown, putting the Broncos' lead a little more out of reach, and forcing the Broncos' defense once again to hold the line. Broncos 26, Colts 20.
On the first play of the Colts' possession, the Broncos defense showed it was up to the task, as Von "game wrecker" Miller made his way to Luck, pulling off yet another extremely timely strip-sack as understudy Shane Ray picked up the ball and took it to the house for a huge game-sealing touchdown.
With 102 seconds left, Broncos punched in a two-point conversion which put the game that was close for 58 minutes completely out of reach. Broncos 34, Colts 20.
OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS TEAM!!! @Millerlite40 with the strip-sack, followed by a TD from @StingRay56!!!!— L.Lattimore-Volkmann (@docllv) September 18, 2016
The Colts did their best to make some plays, but the Broncos defense was fired up and just too much for Luck as Derek Wolfe and Miller ended Luck's run with another pair of sacks, and the Broncos finally evened the series at 13 against this AFC rival.
The Broncos offense finished the day with 266 passing yards behind Siemian's 22 of 33 completions and 134 rushing yards, care of Anderson's 74 and Booker's 46. It would appear Kubiak's running attack is well on its way to "being established" in Denver once again.
Miller finished with three sacks, one forced fumble and five tackles while Talib added the pick-six and Wolfe (1.5) and Ware (.5) contributed another two for five sacks on Luck.
And with losses to the Chiefs and Raiders, this win is even sweeter.
Cam Newton & Andrew Luck's passing stats vs Denver's Defense:— Jayson Braddock (@JaysonBraddock) September 19, 2016
Cam 54.5% 194 yds 1 TD 1 INT
Luck 52.5% 197 yds 1 TD 1 INT