Colts Turn in Complete Effort in 27-13 Victory over Denver Broncos
Gary Brackett wouldn't call the game perfect.
The Colts, after entering Week 3 of the 2010 NFL regular season with a slew of injuries and playing in a difficult environment, allowed a lot of passing yards and faced a variety of difficult situations.
None of which Brackett said mattered. Not in the big picture.
And at least not compared to the final score.
With quarterback Peyton Manning once again throwing three touchdown passes – and again throwing no interceptions – the Colts (2-1) took advantage of opunities when they could, holding the Denver Broncos (1-2) without a touchdown on five red-zone opportunities in a 27-13 victory in front of 76,401 at Invesco Field at Mile High Sunday.
"There's still room for improvement, but I'd rather be improving at 2-1 than 1-2," Brackett, the team's starting middle linebacker and defensive captain, told Colts Radio.
The Colts, after taking a 13-0 lead late in the first half, led just 13-10 early in the second half, but Manning's second two touchdown passes – a nine-yarder in the third quarter to rookie wide receiver Blair White and a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter to second-year wide receiver Austin Collie – allowed Indianapolis to pull away for a second consecutive victory.
The Broncos, who out-gained Indianapolis 519-365, drove inside the Colts 20 five times, but their lone touchdown came on a 48-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Orton to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd early in the third quarter.
The Colts stopped the Broncos on downs at the Indianapolis 1 in the second quarter, and at the 12 and the 20 in the fourth quarter. Denver converted field goals on two other red-zone trips.
"All phases had to come together and play well," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell told Colts Radio. "We didn't do everything exactly as we wanted to, but overall, it was a great effort. A great team win."
Manning, the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player four times – including each of the last two seasons – continued his efficient start to the season, completing 27 of 43 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Manning now has nine touchdown passes with no interceptions in three games.
The Colts scored two touchdowns on three red-zone trips, and also converted two first-half takeaways into 10 points.
"Anytime you can keep teams from scoring touchdowns in that area, you're going to have a chance to win," Caldwell said. "Our offense was able to convert down there, and that was the difference in the game."
The Colts played without not only linebacker Clint Session (hamstring) and wide receivers Pierre Garcon (hamstring) and Anthony Gonzalez (ankle), but left tackle Charlie Johnson, who was declared inactive shortly before the game. Rookie Jeff Linkenbach, an undrafted free agent from Cincinnati, started in Johnson's place.
The Colts not only did not allow a sack, they had no turnovers and only four penalties for 27 yards.
"Anytime we can stay on the positive side of the ledger in the turnover margin, it's going to give us a chance to win," Caldwell said.
With Garcon and Gonzalez out, Collie caught a career-high 12 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
The Colts took a 13-3 halftime lead by forcing Denver into several first-half mistakes – and by stopping Denver near the Indianapolis goal line.
"They (the Colts' defense) just have so much fight, and so much grit in them, that they'll find a way to get you stopped down there," Caldwell.
After neither team scored on its first possession, the Colts drove 44 yards on eight plays late in the first quarter. The drive consumed 3:11, ending when kicker Adam Vinatieri converted a 38-yard field goal for a 3-0 Indianapolis lead.
A 31-yard pass from Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne gave Indianapolis a first down on the Broncos 20 on the drive.
Near the end of the quarter, the Colts turned the Broncos' first turnover of the game into Vinatieri's second field goal. First, Broncos returner Perrish Cox fumbled a punt and Colts cornerback Justin Tryon recovered at the Broncos 14.
The Colts lost a yard on three plays, and Vinatieri's 33-yard field goal made it 6-0, Colts.
The Colts then pushed the lead to 13-0, taking advantage of an interception return by second-year cornerback Jacob Lacey.
On 3rd-and-5 from Colts 35, Orton threw to wide receiver Eddie Royal. Cornerback Jacob Lacey cut in front of the pass and returned the interception 44 yards to the Broncos 26.
"You have to jump on it and go," Lacey said. "I definitely wasn't going to drop it. However I was going to have to get it, I was going to get it."
Seven plays later, Manning's five-yard pass to Collie made it 13-0, Colts.
Lacey, a second-year veteran, not only intercepted a pass that led to Indianapolis' lone touchdown of the half, he had two breakups on a Denver drive inside the Colts 20 late in the half.
"I think it was a great week of preparation and practice," Lacey said. "We had a real good, solid week and I think it showed up real good out there today."
That was the second of two Broncos drives deep in Indianapolis territory in the second quarter.
On the series after Collie's touchdown, the Broncos drove 79 yards to the Colts 1 and ran six plays inside the Indianapolis 15. Denver reached the Colts 1 after a facemask penalty, but linebacker Philip Wheeler and Brackett stopped running back Laurence Maroney on first and second down, and Orton threw incomplete on third down.
On 4th-and-goal, Maroney ran left and was stopped for no gain by Brackett. Officials initially ruled the play a touchdown, but the ruling was overturned.
The Broncos drove to the Colts 7 and faced 2nd-and-1 from there. Lacey twice broke up passes in the end zone to wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, forcing a 25-yard field goal by Matt Prater.
The Broncos cut the Colts' lead to 13-10 with Orton's touchdown to Lloyd on the first drive of the second half. Orton finished the game having completed 37 of 57 passes for 476 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
But while the Broncos moved effectively at times, the Colts continued to limit them near the goal line, and Manning's second and third touchdown passes of the game – one to White and the second to Collie – pushed the lead first to 20-10, then to 27-13 and allowed the Colts move into a first-place tie in the AFC South.
With the Colts winning, and with the Houston Texans losing for the first time this season – 27-13 to Dallas – Indianapolis is now tied with Houston at 2-1. The Tennessee Titans are also 2-1 after beating the New York Giants.
"It was a long game today," Lacey said. "It was long and it was hot, but that's how it is sometimes –
whatever the conditions, you have to go out and play."
Said Brackett, "It's huge. It's obviously a tough place to play. It's big being 2-1. It does a lot for us going into next week."
The Colts visit Jacksonville (1-2) Sunday.