Colts finally put together complete game, hand Peyton and unbeaten Broncos first loss
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 8, 2015) – It took two months, involved some truly Jeykll and Hyde moments, and cost a coach his job, but the Indianapolis Colts finally revealed themselves.
So that’s Colts football.
No self-inflicted wounds and other assorted blunders, unless you count allowing Omar Bolden to return a punt 83 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half. No debilitating turnovers.
The result: a 27-24 victory Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium that knocked the Denver Broncos out of the unbeaten ranks and temporarily stalled Peyton Manning’s relentless assault on the NFL record books.
Again, that’s who the Colts have wanted to be all season, not the floundering group that drew mounting criticism and got offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton fired on Tuesday.
“That’s who we need to be, consistently week-in, week-out,’’ quarterback Andrew Luck said.
It was mentioned to linebacker Robert Mathis the game had to serve as a major boost considering the team had been down in the dumps.
“The dumps is pretty low,’’ he said, “but a win versus an undefeated, complete team like the Broncos is very uplifting.
“It lets us know we can play with anybody in this league. When we play Colts football, we are a force to be reckoned with. We’ve just got to do it.’’
They did, finally.
“It was just a matter of time before this thing was going to turn and hopefully we can use this to springboard us to continue the second half (of the season) this way,’’ Chuck Pagano said. “Played with great confidence, great belief in one another, execution, swagger, all that stuff.’’
The offense, under the direction of Rob Chudzinski and a more decisive Luck, was aggressive, productive and, most important, error-free against a Denver defense compared with the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. There were just two offensive penalties – one in the fourth quarter when T.Y. Hilton caught a pass after straying out of bounds – and, again, no turnovers.
“We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot, positive plays, drives that ended in touchdowns and field goals. They didn’t end in interceptions and fumbles,’’ said Luck, who entered the game with a league-high 12 interceptions and at least two seven of his last eight starts.
Denver’s No. 1-ranked defense hadn’t allowed a first-quarter point all season and had yielded a league-low 16 points per game. The Colts ended the seven-game, opening-quarter shutout when Frank Gore capped the opening drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. They had 17 points at halftime.
The defense absorbed several body blows from Manning – 281 yards, three shy of breaking Brett Favre’s NFL record for a career, and two touchdowns – but made enough plays. Safety Mike Adams gathered in his fifth interception of the year when Dwight Lowery tipped a Manning pass in the second quarter. Darius Butler essentially sealed the deal with a diving interception of a Manning pass with 6 minutes to play.
“The first half against Peyton Manning, I thought we played as well as we have all season,’’ linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “He’s a Hall of Fame guy. He’s going to make his plays.
“But I thought we rose to the challenge today.’’
The emotional victory capped an emotional week. It tested the team’s resilience. It tested Luck’s ability to refocus after Hamilton, his long-time friend and coach, was relieved of his duties.
“Probably a little bit of soul-searching in the building, players figuring out who we want to be,’’ he said. “The truth of the matter is we have the pieces here, that’s pretty darned obvious.
“With all the respect for every opponent we’ve played, we were also committing some terrible self-inflicted negatives. We didn’t do that today.’’
Luck had been mired in a season-long slump, in part due to shoulder and rib injuries. He had won just one of his last seven starts, including the playoffs.
Did he really need this one?
“Yeah, we all needed a win,’’ Luck said. “No one feels sorry for you in this league.
“The blessing and the curse of professional sports is you’re on to the next week no matter what happens, right? So there is no time to sit back and lick your wounds. You’re on to the next one. Your best friend may be cut from the locker room, a coach that you respect and love may be gone, and you move on. You have to.
“I thought the guys did a great job of sort of blocking out the BS and the distractions and focusing on football and practicing.’’
And getting a much-needed pick-me-up.
“What a great team-building victory,’’ Luck said.