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Colts-Broncos: What we learned

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- No matter how much he wanted to make it just another game, Andrew Luck couldn't deny there was something different about his matchup with Peyton Manning.

Manning won four MVP awards and a Super Bowl title in 13 years in Indianapolis before the Colts allowed him to become a free agent. The move cleared the way for the Colts to select Luck with the first pick of the 2012 draft, while Manning received a fresh start with the Denver Broncos.

In the first meeting between the two, Luck passed for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Colts beat the Broncos 39-33 Sunday night.

The Colts paid tribute to Manning before the game, and the fans greeted him warmly. A capacity crowd, mostly clad in Colts blue but noticeably dotted with orange Manning jerseys, remained at a fever pitch for much of the game. Many Indianapolis fans dusted off their old No. 18 Colts jerseys.

"What a setting," Luck said. "It was rocking. The energy -- you could taste it almost. It was a very special environment to play in."

Manning acknowledged it was a tough week.

"If there is a next time, it may be a little bit easier," he said. "It was somewhat of an emotional week, and it can be a little bit draining, I will say that."

The Broncos (6-1) saw their 17-game regular-season winning streak snapped. With a victory Sunday, they would have tied the 2003-04 New England Patriots for the third-longest regular-season win streak in NFL history. Instead, Denver's loss left the Kansas City Chiefs (7-0) as the league's only unbeaten team.

Manning passed for 386 yards and three touchdowns, completing 29 of 39 passes. He was intercepted once. Denver's Eric Decker had eight catches for 150 yards and a score.

Luck went 21-for-38 for 228 yards and ran four times for 29 yards for the Colts (5-2).

The Broncos lost despite outgaining the Colts 429 yards to 334. Denver turned the ball over three times, while Indianapolis only gave it away once.

What the Colts said

"We were happy it was a short week. We didn't want to have to wait an extra couple days to play. We wanted to get that taste out of our mouths." -- Quarterback Andrew Luck, on bouncing back from a Monday night loss at San Diego.

What the Broncos said

"I'm somewhat relieved this game is over. Hopefully, we'll have a chance to play these guys again." -- Quarterback Peyton Manning.

What we learned about the Colts

1. The Colts are resilient. Indianapolis looked awful in the loss to the Chargers, but the Colts came out Sunday and at one point were on the brink of blowing out a team that previously looked like the NFL's best. Indianapolis did not reach the end zone against San Diego, but the Colts came back and scored 39 points after a short week.

2. Indianapolis shows up in big games. The Colts now hold ones over the three most popular preseason choices to win the Super Bowl -- the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver. The Colts scored 27, 34 and 39 points, respectively, in those games.

What we learned about the Broncos

1. Denver can make mistakes and still light up the scoreboard. The Broncos turned the ball over three times, punted seven times and still scored 33 points and gained 429 yards. The offense remains on track to set numerous records.

2. Peyton Manning played differently after taking a hard hit. Robert Mathis blindsided him in the end zone in the second quarter, and the Colts scored a safety. For a while afterward, Manning threw mostly short, wobbly passes. He wouldn't say Mathis' hit hurt him or affected his play, but Denver's 14-10 lead became a 33-14 deficit. Other teams might try to rough Manning up if they can get to him.
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