INDIANAPOLIS – It was a game that had enough storylines to cover two Sunday papers.
The hype of Peyton Manning's return to Lucas Oil Stadium was built to extreme levels and yet somehow the Sunday Night Football matchup on October 20th lived up to expectations.
Putting the quarterbacks aside, you had the season debut for Denver's All-Pro sack artist Von Miller. There was Robert Mathis finally getting to the quarterback he could never touch during their days in Indianapolis. If that wasn't enough, the never-injured Reggie Wayne tore his ACL in the fourth quarter, thus ending a streak of 189 straight starts for one of Manning's favorite targets with the Colts.
You knew when the NFL schedule makers convened earlier this spring, the Colts return trip to Denver was going to be atop the priority list.
Now, the week is here with the defending AFC Champions hosting a team that many have pegged as a threat to that 2014 crown.
While the Colts and Broncos (major spenders this offseason) will look a bit different this time around, there are some specific takeaways from last year's meeting.
In the Colts 39-33 victory over the Broncos, several factors contributed to Indianapolis' primetime victory
-Getting To Manning: The Colts took full advantage of Denver starting tackle Orlando Franklin out of the lineup. In 49 Manning pass attempts, the Colts sacked the Broncos quarterback four times. That eight percent sack percentage was an outlier for a normally stout Denver offensive line, which led the NFL by giving up sacks on just 2.9 percent of pass attempts in 2013. Obviously, the most devastating sack to Manning was Robert Mathis (who will not play on Sunday night) beating backup tackle Chris Clark for a safety, sparking the Colts run of 23 unanswered points. Pro Bowler Ryan Clady is back blocking Manning's blindside this time around.
-The Money Down: With a healthy secondary, the Colts backend put together arguably its best performance of 2013 against Manning. Denver came into that Week 7 meeting converting 57 percent of their third downs. The Colts held them to just 31 percent (5-of-16) on the money down and forced seven three-and-outs. Denver averaged just under two three-and-outs per game in 2013.
-Flawless Luck: Considering the circumstances, Andrew Luck's game against Denver might be one of his most impressive games as a pro. The numbers (21-of-38 for 228 yards) didn't set any records but his three touchdowns, no interceptions were just what Chuck Pagano wanted in a tremendous atmosphere. Now, Luck goes into one of the more hostile environments in the NFL, facing a defense that has added some proven playmakers.