The Denver Broncos suffered their first loss of the season, as they lost 39-33 on the road against the Indianapolis Colts. The return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis did not go very well for the Broncos. This game was marred by injuries, penalties, turnovers and inconsistencies.
When the game was over Manning talked about how exhausting this week was for him. “I felt probably a little tired coming into this week. I’m kind of in some ways somewhat relieved this game is over.”
The Broncos entered the game without right tackle Orlando Franklin as he continues to deal with the ankle injury he suffered in Week 6 against the Jaguars. Denver moved Louis Vasquez outside to right tackle, with Chris Kuper taking his spot inside at right guard. The shuffled offensive line had trouble protecting Manning on Sunday night.
After the game, Manning commented on the different combination on the offensive line. “Injuries are a part of it,” Manning said. “You have to be able to overcome those things. Certainly we had some guys playing in some different spots tonight. That’s never easy, playing on the road in a loud stadium against a good pass rush. But, we’ll learn from it and try to be better the next time.”
Manning was seemingly under constant pressure from the Colts. Left tackle Chris Clark had trouble slowing down Robert Mathis, and the Colts’ premiere pass-rusher finished with two sacks. Mathis also caused a safety as he knocked the ball out of Manning’s hands and out of the back of the end zone in the second quarter.
When passing the football Manning’s arm looked a little off. Several of his passes fluttered more than usual, but after the game Manning only joked about those throws. "I throw a lot of wobbly passes," he said. "I throw a lot of wobbly touchdowns, too."
Even though his spirals weren’t crisp, Manning still threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns. Sunday night’s performance marked his 78th career game with 300 yards passing as well as his 300th game with three touchdown passes.
The Broncos ground game didn’t get on track against the Colts. Starter Knowshon Moreno finished the game with 15 carries for 40 yards and one rushing touchdown. He started the game running hot, but the team couldn’t sustain drives against Indianapolis. This meant fewer opportunities for Moreno.
Ronnie Hillman once again served as the change-of-pace back behind Moreno. He was running with great burst, and finished the game with four carries for 25 yards. However, his late fourth-quarter fumble at the Colts 3-yard line was incredibly costly and helped seal the victory for the Colts.
Eric Decker had a career-high 150 yards receiving against the Colts. His 17-yard touchdown in the first quarter was the 25th of his career, tying him with WR Brandon Marshall for the most receiving scores in Broncos history through a player’s first four seasons.
Wes Welker didn’t score a touchdown for the first time in his Broncos career. However, his seven catches for 96 yards were critical and helped get the offense back on track in the second half.
Demaryius Thomas was part of the Broncos' resurgent second-half offense as well. He scored his first receiving touchdown since Week 4 with a 31-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
Tight End Julius Thomas scored again this week. His eight receiving touchdowns tie Welker for the most in the NFL so far this season.
Defensively the Broncos had trouble with tackling, focus and discipline. As a team, the Broncos were penalized 12 times for 103 yards. Many of those penalties came against the defense.
The Colts offense didn’t go wild, only racking up 334 total yards compared to the Broncos’ 429 total yards. However, the Colts did move the ball consistently and used several different receivers to pick on the Denver defense.
Andrew Luck handled the pressure with ease, keeping his eyes downfield while extending the play with his feet. He threw three touchdowns to three different receivers and generally had his way with the Broncos defense.
Even the Broncos special teams struggled on Sunday night. Returner Trindon Holliday fumbled twice against the Colts, losing one deep in Broncos territory. That fumble became a touchdown for the Colts, and it gave them a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter.
This was an absolute collapse by the Broncos in all three phases of the game. It’s a disappointing loss, and one the team will learn from.
Manning talked about learning from this loss after the game. “This is a game that we need to learn from. We had four turnovers and still somehow had a chance to win that game. I’d like to have seen it go to a two-point game down there toward the end and seen what would have happened. Never quite got to that point, but you can go back to different parts of the game—we got behind and (there were) mistakes there but we still had a chance there at the end. We did fight and hung in there. We can learn from it. We certainly have to improve from this game because we weren’t as sharp execution-wise as we’d like.”
Entering this game the Broncos had played with a lead 72 percent of the time. It was a different look this week as they attempted to come from behind against Indianapolis.
Check out the grades for each Broncos player against the Colts.
All quotes and injury/practice observations were obtained firsthand. Record information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.