Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis did not go as well as planned. The previously unstoppable Denver Broncos offense sputtered Sunday night as the Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts knocked the Broncos from the ranks of the unbeaten in a game that was, if not exceptionally well-played, at least fairly eventful.
What was supposed to be a triumphant trip back to Indianapolis for Manning turned into a national-TV coming out party for Luck. The second-year starting quarterback threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.
Although the game’s outcome seemed to be in hand for most of the second half, the much-anticipated “War of 1812” (Manning = #18, Luck = #12) still featured a few signature moments — the first quite unfortunate:
4. Reggie Wayne seriously injured his knee trying to adjust to a poor pass from Luck.
Wayne looked extremely unhappy on the sidelines after speaking with doctors; he’ll have an MRI tomorrow.
5. Pat McAfee laid the boom on returner Trindon Holliday.
Pat McAfee is a punter. Punters everywhere will be watching this clip for years.
6. And we found out Andrew Luck is a probably a Duke basketball fan.
That’s an unnecessary bump by the Broncos’ Kevin Vickerson…and Luck made VERY sure the officials saw it, drawing a 15-yard flag for a crucial first down late in the game.
7. Meanwhile, Wes Welker looked intense.
8. Peyton was sad.
9. And this guy showed up.
In the end, the Colts are suddenly a legitimate contender and the Broncos look — dare I say — beatable. Their offensive line was suspect: the team averaged only 3.2 YPC on the ground, while Manning was sacked four times. Meanwhile, Luck made his case for being the best young quarterback in the NFL. His accuracy wasn’t always great, but he accounted for four touchdowns without a turnover. It wasn’t quite a passing of the torch — these teams may well meet again in the playoffs — but tonight Luck made clear, on a national stage, that he and the Colts will be one of the league’s elite teams for a long time.