September 24, 2017

Colts Defeat Broncos 24-13

The fourth and final divisional playoff game had the Indianapolis Colts traveling to Denver, Colorado to face the Denver Broncos.  The Colts were coming off a 26-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and the Broncos were coming off a bye week.  The Colts got the ball first and three plays gained nine yards.  Punter Pat McAfee’s punt went 39 yards and the Broncos took over at their 32-yard line.  A five-yard run by running back C.J. Anderson was followed by a short completion from quarterback Peyton Manning to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.  But the Colts were flagged for roughing the passer and that gave the Broncos a first down at the Indianapolis 45-yard line.  Two more carries by Anderson and a 32-yard pass to tight end Julius Thomas set the Broncos up with a first and goal from the two-yard line.  Two plays later, Manning found wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the end zone for a touchdown.  Kicker Connor Barth made the extra point and the Broncos led 7-0 with ten minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Colts managed to get a few first downs on their next drive.  But they ended up punting again as quarterback Andrew Luck’s pass on third and 12 intended for tight end Jack Doyle fell incomplete.  McAfee punted and the ball was downed at the Denver four-yard line.  Aside from a 22-yard run by Anderson, the Broncos did nothing with the ball on this possession.  Punter Britton Colquitt got off a nice 48-yard punt that was fielded by return man Josh Cribbs at the 27.  He should have called for a fair catch because he was promptly flattened by safety Omar Bolden.

From the 27, the Colts finally got their offense rolling.  Two runs by running back Daniel Herron and completions to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Coby Fleener quickly moved the ball to the Denver 35-yard line.  Tight end Dwayne Allen caught a pass on the next play.  But he was thrown for a loss of three yards.  From the 38, Luck looked for Hilton again and found him for a gain of 23 yards and a first down at the 15-yard line.  Three plays later, Herron ran up the left side for a six-yard touchdown.  Kicker Adam Vinatieri made the point after and the score was tied 7-7 with 14:14 to go in the second quarter.

The Broncos took over at their 20 and Anderson got another carry for a few yards.  On second down, Manning found Sanders again for a gain of 14 yards.  Some more running by Anderson and running back Ronnie Hillman moved the ball near mid-field.  On third and 12 from the 50, Manning was sacked by linebacker Jonathan Newsome.  The ball came loose and was recovered by linebacker Jerrell Freeman at the Denver 41-yard line.

From the 41, Luck completed short passes to Doyle and Herron.  That was followed by a deep pass to rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief for a first down at the eight-yard line.  On third and goal from the six, Luck threw a pass to the right intended for Hilton.  It was incomplete, but cornerback Aqib Talib was flagged for defensive holding.  That gave the Colts a first and goal from the three-yard line.  Two plays later, Luck found Allen in the end zone for a touchdown.  Vinatieri made the point after and the Colts led 14-7 with 7:23 to go in the second quarter.

As this game progressed, it became pretty obvious that Manning wasn’t his usual efficient self.  His passes were wobbly and he missed many open targets.  It turns out he was playing with a torn quad.  With 2:32 to go in the second quarter, the Colts found themselves pinned back at their own three-yard line.  Herron carried the ball a couple of times and netted a first down at the 14.  But a holding call moved them back to the seven.  On third and 12 from the 12, Luck looked for Moncrief down the middle and the pass was picked off by cornerback Bradley Roby at the Denver 49-yard line.  Manning completed passes to Sanders and Anderson to get them into field goal range.  With seven seconds on the clock, Barth came on for a 45-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and at halftime, the Colts led 14-10.

The Broncos started the third quarter at their 20 and looked as bad as they did in the first half.  They gained five yards on three plays and punted the ball away.  McAfee’s punt went out of bounds at the Indianapolis 28-yard line.  Luck completed passes to Allen and running back Zurlon Tipton to get the Colts moving.  Another completion to Moncrief and a 32-yard pass to Fleener set up a first and goal from the Denver eight-yard line.  From the eight, Luck ran up the left side and went untouched into the end zone.  That play was brought back by a holding call.  That moved the ball back to the 18-yard line.  Two plays later, Luck threw for the end zone and the ball was picked out of the air by wide receiver Hakeem Nicks for a touchdown.  Vinatieri made the point after and the Colts were up 21-10 with 8:21 to go in the third quarter.

The Broncos went three and out on their next possession.  Colquitt punted and once again Cribbs didn’t call for a fair catch.  He also got hammered by Bolden again at the 30.  The ball came loose and was recovered at the 30 by wide receiver Andre Caldwell.  But the play was reviewed and the ruling was reversed.  The Colts really dodged a bullet on that play.  Maybe the special teams coach should inform Cribbs that calling for a fair catch isn’t against the law.

The Colts took over at the 30 and a 12-yard catch by Hilton netted a first down at the 42.  But the next two plays lost three yards.  On third and 12, Luck went deep up the right side for Moncrief and the pass was picked off by safety Rahim Moore at the Denver 24-yard line.  Manning and the Broncos took over at the 24 and Manning completed passes to four different receivers.  All those completions moved the Broncos down to the Indianapolis 45-yard line.  A short run by Anderson, an incomplete pass and an eight-yard pass to D. Thomas set up a crucial fourth and one from the 36.  Anderson took the hand-off and was immediately hit.  He shook off that tackle and proceeded to shake off two more tackles to get a first down at the 29.  That was a nice run and finally gave the Denver faithful something to cheer about.  But the next three plays only gained five yards and Barth came on for another field goal attempt.  His 41-yard attempt was good and the Colts now led 21-13 with 13:50 to go in the game.

Both teams went three and out on their next possessions and with 12:20 remaining, the Colts took over at their 34-yard line.  A short run by Herron and an 18-yard completion to Hilton netted a first down at the Denver 47-yard line.  That’s when the running game took over for the Colts.  Herron and Tipton were chewing up yardage and taking precious time off the clock.  The eight-minute drive  came to an end at the Denver 12-yard line.  Vinatieri made his 30-yard field goal attempt to make the score 24-13 with 4:06 to go in the game.

The Broncos were now in full panic mode.  Rain was coming down and the crowd was booing loudly.  I could have sworn I heard some people chanting for Tim Tebow.  When your quarterback is injured, how effective will he be?  They moved from their 20 to the 46 on all short passes.  On fourth and eight from the 46, Manning completed a short pass to Anderson.  He tried his best to get to the first down marker, but the measurement showed he was just short.  Denver challenged the spot and it didn’t matter.  He was short of the first down and the Colts took over at the Denver 46.  That was the nail in the coffin and the Colts came away with a 24-13 win.

For the Colts, Andrew Luck completed 27 of 43 for 265 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.  Daniel Herron led the team in receptions with eight and T.Y. Hilton had the most receiving yards with 72.  Herron led the team in rushing with 63 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.  As a team, the Colts rushed for 99 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson led the team in solo tackles with ten.

For the Broncos, Peyton Manning completed 26 of 46 for 211 yards and one touchdown.  Emmanuel Sanders had the most receptions with seven and Demaryius Thomas had the most receiving yards with 59 and one touchdown.  C.J. Anderson led the team in rushing with 80 yards on 18 carries.  As a team, the Broncos rushed for 88 yards on 20 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Steven Johnson led the team in solo tackles with six.

Up next for the Colts is a visit to New England to face the Patriots for the AFC title.  They met in week 11 in Indianapolis and the Patriots came away with a 42-20 victory.

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