The Indianapolis Colts entered the game at 3-5, without a single victory against a non-AFC South opponent. They were playing the Denver Broncos, who were 7-0 and with the best defense in the NFL. The two quarterbacks, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning, were two of the lowest-rated quarterbacks in the NFL this season. So, of course, it turned into a thrilling matchup between the two teams that was decided in the fourth quarter. The Colts played their best game of the season and pulled out a 27-24 win over the Broncos, heading into their bye week fresh off of their biggest victory of the year.
The Broncos came into the game allowing just 16 points per game and hadn't given up more than 24 points in any game this year, but the Colts put up 27 points and impressed with their offense. Andrew Luck played his best game of the season - in large part because he didn't turn the ball over. He played smart football, looked more confident in what he was doing, and played a pretty good football game against a very good defense. Luck was, in a word, fantastic. He completed 21 of 36 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns without a pick, also adding 35 yards rushing. And T.Y. Hilton? He didn't practice all week and was looking unlikely to play, but he came up huge today with five catches for 82yards. Griff Whalen came up big, too - he's had two good games in a row, today catching five passes for 73 and surely earning more playing time going forward. Frank Gore also made some really nice plays, including some timely runs that helped keep the offense going. On the day, he rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown while also catching one pass for 19 yards.
The defense did a fine job, too, as they shutout Denver's offense in the first half. Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense got going in the second half (thanks in large part to Manning hitting some of the deep throws the Colts were daring him to hit). But a timely interception by Darius Butler on Manning in the fourth quarter helped seal the game for the Colts. Indy picked Manning off twice - once by Mike Adams, and then that pick by Butler.
This is the game we've been waiting to see from the Colts. They put it together for four quarters as well as they have all year, as their offense looked very good against the league's best defense and their defense had a solid day against Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense. The special teams were a bit shaky (that punt return to end the first half was a huge play), but Adam Vinatieri was still automatic - hitting two field goals, including one from 55 yards out (his longest as a Colt).
It was a costly game for the Colts, as they lost Mike Adams (ankle) and Henry Anderson (knee) to injury, so we'll have to wait and see how serious those injuries are - but without a doubt, those two are players the Colts can't afford to lose.
Without a doubt, though, this game was HUGE. Absolutely huge. The Colts improve to 4-5 on the season, stay in first place in the AFC South, and notch their first victory of the season against a non-division opponent. This was the team we thought the Colts could be entering the year, and now we'll see whether it's something that they can build on. But for now, the Colts have their signature win that they didn't before. It was a very impressive effort by the Colts, and they deserve a ton of credit for it.