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Last night was all dramatics. It was the greatest regular season win a team has recorded in my lifetime, in my opinion.
The Broncos (favored by 6.5) opened up scoring early and it looked like it would be a long night. Then the Colts started to punch back some. Adam Vinatieri hit a short field goal and then Luck hooked up with Darrius Heyward-Bey from 11 yards out for his first of three scoring tosses. The Colts somehow led Peyton Manning and the mighty undefeated Broncos 10-7.
What set up that score was easily one of the plays of the night. Stanley Havili – a player I’ve loved since his time at USC – forced a key fumble of Trindon Holliday on a punt return. The Colts recovered and got in for seven the next play.
Manning quickly struck back with a touchdown to Julius Thomas and the lead was back to 14-10. The Broncos would get the ball back pinned back deep in their own end zone and things would change dramatically from that point. Robert Mathis nailed Manning from behind, and the Colts nearly fell on the ball but it was ruled a safety. The momentum had swung and it had swung for good.
Havili scored on a swing pass (untouched) from 20 yards out and a few minutes later, Colby Fleener did the same thing. The Colts led 26-14 at the half.
The Colts came out of the half and Luck led them down the field and capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. At that point the Broncos had to know they were in trouble. Luck was absolutely amazing last night.
The final stats didn’t end up as gaudy as they could have been: 21 of 38 for 228 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He hit several key third down throws as he always does. He commanded the huddle and seemed to ignore the drama surrounding the game, he just wanted to ball.
The Broncos mounted a furious comeback, and it looked for a while that Peyton Manning would have the last laugh, escaping Indianapolis with a last-second win and writing the finest chapter of his storied career. Manning took the Broncos inside the five yard-line after a Trent Richardson fumble, trailing 39-30; and somehow the game felt over. Then Ronnie Hillman became the game’s biggest goat, fumbling at the 3-yard line, punched loose by Erik Walden. The Colts fell on it and were able to kill some clock (after three punts by Pat Mcafee).
The Broncos got the ball back, and yet I still didn’t feel that the game was in-hand. Up nine with two minutes to go, Peyton went back to work with no timeouts. His wobbly balls did what they could. They got into Matt Prater field goal range and cut the lead to where it would rest forever, 39-33. The Colts would recover an onside kick that fluttered out of bounds – a fitting cap to the great night they had on special teams – and this 2013 Colts team would be immortalized forever.
- I can’t say enough about the games played by Vontae Davis, Darius Butler, and Cassius Vaughn. They played their asses off, hurt, angry, making plays. In addition to the great efforts by the monsters; Luck, Mathis, Fleener, Freeman, Vinatieri… you had the minor efforts by the role players that made this a special win.
- Losing Reggie Wayne for the season was absolutely crushing and made this bittersweet. He’s my favorite wide-receiver ever. I’m not sure if this is the end, but I hope Reggie Wayne doesn’t go out with his last play being an incompletion with him in space, nothing but green in front of him, injured without contact. Reggie had five big catches for 50 yards before the injury.
- Heyward-Bey had 4 catches for 44 yards and the touchdown, and he also had a 30-yard run on a reverse. I felt like Pep Hamilton called a decent game, though the Colts offense stopped making plays in the second half and I felt they could have done a better job continuing to attack.
- Jack Doyle, Colts Tight End; on the board with one catch for seven yards. It seems like Luck might have that same quality Manning did; the ability to turn a nobody tight end or receiver into a star. I believe the statement one time was ‘Peyton could turn a shopping cart with arms into a pro-bowl receiver’.
- I agree with Deadspin on Trent Richardson. Guy is awful. Prove me wrong at this point.
- The Colts started going to Donald Brown more (11 carries) and he had three catches. Richardson was on the bench late in the game in short-yardage situations. Very telling.
- Love what we’re seeing from Colby Fleener. He’s not much of a blocker, but the guy is a nice target and his chemistry with Luck is really starting to show.
- I just can’t say enough about Stanley Havili. I love this guy so much – I had to look into how the Colts landed him. I used to dominate games on NCAA with him as a USC player on the Playstation 3. It was a mere footnote back in March, a trade for a journeyman defensive end, Clifton Geathers. This was a stroke of brilliance by Ryan Grigson. He could end up a long-term Colt that while unheralded, leads to a lot of victories. He led to one here.
- Pat McAfee is a football player, and I thank you.
- Bill Polian isn’t speaking to Jim Irsay. I just found this.
- I woke up to a flurry of Jim Irsay tweets at 3 AM. The old boy was uncharacteristically quiet during the game.
Ultimately, my focus now shifts to how the Hell does this young team replace Reggie Wayne? Who gets that chunk of the offense now? How do you make a Super Bowl run without your leader? The Colts won the battle, but lost the war to a degree.
With wins over the 49ers, Seahawks, and now the Broncos (all Super Bowl contenders) in the books, a lot of questions seem unanswered. The Colts don’t have any type of a run game to grind the clock late in a game and they seem to struggle with identity. They’re not a power running team at this point. They’re at their best when they’re trying to throw the ball and letting Luck work his magic. They need to throw to set up the run.
They’re in the bye week. Colts talk will be slow in these parts. But this game will serve as a lasting memory no matter how this season turns out. My favorite win seems to always be the next one. That has been replaced by this win. This was the best ever.