INDIANAPOLIS – The stretch was daunting in November and that's only been backed up with the calendar now reading February.
When the Colts faced the Panthers and Broncos in back-to-back games this past November, they became the fourth team in NFL history to have played teams with at least 6-0 records in consecutive weeks.
In a trip to Carolina and a home contest with the Broncos, which ended up being Andrew Luck's final game action of 2015, the Colts nearly ended both teams' undefeated seasons.
What happened in that Colts, 27-24, win over the Broncos?
-Gloom Turned To Swag: About 16 hours after the Colts landed in Indianapolis following their overtime loss to the Panthers, some major news was breaking. The Colts fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, thus throwing Rob Chudzinski into not the most promising situation. Chud had to take the reigns of an offense on a short week going against the league's top ranked defense. He brought a "swagger" to the offensive room and that transferred into the unit's finest performance of 2015.
-Win One For Peyton: From Monday-on of game week, Broncos' players did not shy away from the "win one for Peyton" attitude. The former Colts great had lost his lone meeting back in Indianapolis (2013) and was also knocked off by his old team in the previous year's playoffs. The extra motivation wasn't enough though. Manning would not only drop his third career game to the Colts, he would also fall short of breaking NFL records for the most wins and passing yards.
-What A Start: Coming into Week Nine, the Broncos defense had yet to allow a first-quarter point all season long. The Colts' early-game struggles were well documented. An opening-possession touchdown allowed the Colts to stay ahead of schedule for nearly the entire 60 minutes. The Colts possessed the ball for 38-plus minutes and ran the ball 40 times, both season-highs against Denver.
-Luck's Final Act: Putting the lacerated kidney in the fourth quarter aside, Andrew Luck was very efficient versus the league's top defense. The week prior, Denver held Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers to just 77 passing yards. Luck was 21-of-36 for 252 yards, two touchdowns, and most importantly, committed zero turnovers. Luck led the offense to a 12-of-20 day on third-down, after the Broncos had been holding opponents to 31 percent on the money down.
-Fourth Quarter Resolve: Up 17-0, the Colts gave up a punt return for a touchdown at the halftime gun, which turned into 17 straight points for the Broncos. After trading touchdowns in the second half, the Colts took the lead for good with a 55-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri, his longest ever with Indianapolis. A Darius Butler interception followed and the Colts held the ball for the final six minutes and change, helped by a pair of critical Denver penalties.