INDIANAPOLIS –Adam Vinatieri calmly kicked a 55-yard field goal with 6:13 remaining and cornerback Darius Butler intercepted a Peyton Manning pass after the ensuing kickoff, lifting the Colts to a stunning 27-24 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Under new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, the Colts ran out the final 6 minutes after Butler's inteception. Their final play was a kneel-down by quarterback Andrew Luck at the Denver 1-yard line. A Lucas Oil Stadium crowd of 66,894 erupted as the clock hit zeroes.
The Colts started quickly, scoring the first 17 points of the game and ending a season-long struggle with balky getaways. They sustained drives, scoring on marches of seven, nine, eight, 12 and seven plays. They took on the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL and triumphed.
Luck completed 21-of-36 passes for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He scrambled six times for 34 important yards. He played without an interception after suffering 12 through the season's first half.
Denver's Peyton Manning passed for 281 yards on 21-of-36 with two scores and two interceptions. The loss not only marked the first of the season for Denver, but it kept Manning from becoming the all-time NFL leader for victories as a starting quarterback.
Manning needs one more win for 187 in his career, which would surpass Brett Favre. Manning also finished three yards shy of what he needed to pass Favre for the career passing yardage record.
THE TURNING POINT – Indy scored 17 points to open the game and then saw the Broncos respond with 17 unanswered points of their own. When Denver's Omar Bolden scored on an 83-yard punt return to end the first half, it seemed to energize the visitors and stagger the home team. However, after the Broncos knotted up the game with 4:57 left in the third quarter, the Colts finally got untracked again. Luck engineered a 12-play, 80-yard march that signaled to everyone, including the Broncos, to buckle their seatbelts.
THE UNSUNG HEROES – Indy's Frank Gore ran for 83 yards on 28 carries. It was just enough to keep drives alive and milk the clock when needed, especially in the final six minutes. Gore accumulated 59 yards in the first half, helping to set up play-action passes for Luck, who threw for 130 yards before halftime. T.Y. Hilton, who was iffy all week with a foot injury, came to play as well. The Indy wide receiver caught five passes for a team-high 82 yards.
THE DEFENSIVE STARS – Butler's diving interception to seal the game obviously puts him among the standouts. Also, defensive end Kendall Langford led the Colts with six tackles and also produced a quarterback sack.
THE KEY STATISTICS – The Colts gained 27 first downs to 16 for Denver. They ran 77 plays, compared to just 51 for the Broncos. How did the home team lead those numbers so decisively? A look at the rushing yardage might tell the tale: Indianapolis 120, Denver 35.
THE QUARTERBACK'S QUOTE – "We all needed a win," Luck said. "No one feels sorry for you in this league. It was almost like a one-game playoff in a sense. We managed to win, which was great. Now we're going to another one-game playoff … when we play again after this bye week. That's the mentality we'll have and keep trucking."
THE SCORING RECAP
FIRST QUARTER (6:48 remaining)
The Colts struck first on Frank Gore's 7-yard touchdown run. It marked the first points of the season given up by Denver in a first quarter. The big play of the Colts' 80-yard march was a 28-yard pitch-and-catch, Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton. Hilton took a huge hit on the play from Denver's T.J. Ward, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness, adding 15 yards to the gain. Adam Vinatieri kicked the extra point. **Colts 7, Broncos 0.
SECOND QUARTER (12:13 remaining)
The Colts extended their lead with Vinatieri's 43-yard field goal at the end of a nine-play, 63-yard drive. Gore continued to provide Indy with nice runs, including an 11-yarder for a first down. Luck hit all four of his passes for 29 yards on the march. Colts 10, Broncos 0.
SECOND QUARTER (7:12 remaining)
Luck took the lead on this scoring drive by Indy, completing 4-of-6 passes for 60 yards. The big one was a 30-yarder to Hilton over the middle. Gore grabbed a pass from Luck and went 19 yards. The touchdown pass went to Jack Doyle for three yards. Vinatieri added the extra point. ** Colts 17, Broncos 0.
SECOND QUARTER (00:00 remaining)
The Broncos scored in stunning fashion with no time remaining in the half. Omar Bolden hauled in a punt by Indy's Pat McAfee and bolted up the right sideline for an 83-yard touchdown return. Colts 17, Broncos 7.
THIRD QUARTER (11:27 remaining)
Another quick strike by the Broncos cut into the Colts' lead. Denver's Peyton Manning stepped up in the pocket and hit a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders, who outran Greg Toler for a 64-yard touchdown completion. Brandon McManus hit the extra point.Colts 17, Broncos 14.
THIRD QUARTER (4:57 remaining)
The Broncos tied the game on the strength of some nice passing by Manning. McManus hit a 29-yard field goal that knotted things after Manning led a 10-play, 79-yard drive. Manning completed 6-of-7 passes for 73 yards on the march. Colts 17, Broncos 17.
FOURTH QUARTER (14:05 remaining)
After scoring the first 17 points of the game, then watching Denver score 17 unanswered, the Colts got back on the scoreboard. An eight-yard pass from Luck to Ahmad Bradshaw, who leaped into the end zone, sent the Colts ahead again. Luck passed for 66 yards on the 80-yard march. Vinatieri booted the extra point. **Colts 24, Broncos 17.
FOURTH QUARTER (8:54 remaining)
The Broncos came right back for a long drive of their own. Manning hit all five of his passes, including the last one for a one-yard touchdown to Owen Daniels. He totaled 64 passing yards on the 80-yard march. McManus hit the extra point. Colts 24, Broncos 24.
FOURTH QUARTER (6:13 remaining)
Vinatieri calmly booted a 55-yard field goal to nudge the Colts ahead. A pair of 15-yard pass completions by Luck – one to Donte Moncrief and one to Doyle – set up the field goal.Colts 27, Broncos 24