INDIANAPOLIS— For nearly a decade, Robert Mathis wasn't allowed within a two-yard circle of Peyton Manning on the football field.
That circle was nowhere to be found on Sunday night.
Mathis had a pair of sacks of Peyton Manning and it was No. 98's strip and safety of his former teammate that ultimately changed the momentum.
"We had to bite, scratch, even pinch just to get some kind of pressure on (Manning) and make him uncomfortable," Mathis, who now has a career-high 11.5 sacks with nine games remaining, said after the game.
"I love to hit the quarterback so it felt good no matter who was back there."
At the time of the Mathis safety, Denver led 14-10 with 9:01 left in the second quarter.
The Colts had re-gained the field position battle with the Broncos backed up to their own nine-yard line facing a third-and seven.
On the shotgun snap, Mathis speed rush got past left tackle Chris Clark and drilled Manning from the blind side with the ball popping out, before rolling out of bounds after Erik Walden was unable to recover it in the end zone.
Now down just 14-12, the Colts followed up with a seven-play, 66-yard touchdown drive and would not trail for the rest of the game.
"We needed a momentum change," cornerback Greg Toler said of Mathis's safety. "We were doing well on both sides of the ball at that time but those plays like that just stir up a lot of frizzy on defense and when you see one man make a play, we all just want to come out and make a play."
The defense certainly followed suit forcing three turnovers and sacking Manning four times.
Coming into Sunday, Manning led the league with 240 pass attempts but Denver had allowed just five sacks in six games (fewest in the NFL).
The Colts had four sacks on Sunday night and hit Manning on 10 different occasions in earning a 39-33 win over the previously undefeated Broncos.
"We were hitting (Manning) and hitting him and if we weren't hitting him, we were stepping on his feet, pushing him, breathing on him, letting him know that we were there," defensive end Cory Redding said after the win.
"All we tried to do was just get pressure on 18, make him uncomfortable. (Defensive coordinator) Greg Manusky drew up a great game plan and we executed tonight and made our plays."
Whether it was the six three-and-outs the Colts defense forced or holding the Broncos to just 5-of-16 on third downs (36 percentage points below their league leading average), everything pointed back to the Mathis safety.
After the safety, Manning was just five-of-12 for 36 yards on Denver's next five offensive possessions.
The Broncos punted on all five of those drives and the Colts scored 23 unanswered points, building a 33-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"That was a big play," Manning said of Mathis safety. "Certainly any time you give them the safety and give them the ball again, it's potentially a nine-point swing.
"It was a great play by him and that was one, among others, a couple of plays where we gave them some points or some field position and ultimately it was too tough to overcome."
On a night when the roof was open, Mathis gave the Colts faithful something to blow any top right off into the Indianapolis night.
"Extremely proud of our fans. They showed up and they represented the Colts," Mathis said after the game.
"Our Colts fans…I love them to death."