Colts hold off a late rally to beat the Broncos in Manning’s return

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INDIANAPOLIS – Finally, some football.

No one uttered the phrase specifically on Sunday evening as opening ball was kicked amid an electric atmosphere that could have spilled out of the open roof and window at Lucas Oil Stadium, but surely someone wearing pads was thinking it.

After all the match-up between the Colts and the Broncos-more specifically the return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis-set off a hype firestorm around the country that engulfed the talk of the sports world.

Six days of hype finally cleared on a chilly, windy night in Indianapolis, and the business of football commenced like any other-even if the circumstances made it very unique.

Yet it was the Colts who remained unfazed as the former quarterback returned to town as they led the majority of the game in a 39-33 win Sunday night. Indianapolis improves to 5-2 on the season and knocks the Broncos from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Manning made the first move offensively as the quarterback needed just two plays on Denver’s second drive to produce a touchdown. The quarterback hit Eric Decker on an out route in the endzone for the 17-yard touchdown to make it 7-0. Andrew Luck and the Colts responded on the next drive by using the pass to get inside the Broncos’ 10-yard line but had to settle for an Adam Vinatieri 27-yard field goal when the drive stalled to cut the lead to four.

Colts’ special teams set up another score at the end of the first quarter when Stanley Havili popped the ball out of returner Trindon Holliday’s hands on the ensuing kick return. Initially ruled out of bounds, the call was overturned and Indianapolis took over at the Broncos’ 11-yard line. Luck then found Darrius Heyward-Bey for a touchdown on the first play of the drive to give the Colts a 10-7 lead.

Once again the Broncos had an answer as Manning hit Julius Thomas in the back of the endzone for an 11-yard touchdown to make it 14-10. But Manning wouldn’t have such good luck later in the quarter when Colts linebacker Robert Mathis sacked the quarterback and forced a fumble. Erik Walden gave chase and recovered the ball near the side of the endzone, but bobbled it before going out of bounds which gave the Colts just a safety to cut the lead to two.

Luck helped the Colts get the lead back with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Havili on the next drive to put Indianapolis up 19-14. In the two-minute drill, Luck delivered again as he drove the team 50-yard in six plays and completed it with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Coby Fleener to make it 26-14.

In the third quarter the Colts pushed the lead to 33-14 when Luck finished a drive with a ten-yard touchdown run. Matt Prater knocked in a field goal just before the end of the quarter to cut the Colts’ lead to 16 but Vinatieri’s 52-yarder pushed the lead back to 19 early in the fourth.

But then the Colts’ defense made a pair of major plays. First Pat Angerer intercepted Manning pass after pressure from Walden and took the ball to the Denver 20-yard line. Vinatieri booted a 42-yard field goal to make it 39-30 but it appeared that the Broncos would get it back when Manning drove Denver inside the Colts’ three-yard line.

Just as it appeared Denver might score, the Colts forced running back Ronnie Hillman to fumble and when Walden recovered, the Colts had the ball back and were able to use enough clock on offense to get to the two-minute warning.

Manning was able to get the Broncos down the field to get in position for a 47-yard field goal to cut the Colts’ lead to six but the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Colts to seal the win.

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