As has frequently been the case during his tenure with the Denver Broncos, quarterback Peyton Manning found himself on the precipice of history on Sunday. On this occasion however, he came up just short.
He would finish the contest against the Indianapolis Colts (his former team) three yards away from the NFL’s all-time passing record. He would finish contest down three points, preventing him from setting the NFL’s all-time mark in wins by a quarterback. For the third time since coming to Denver, he (and his teammates) would fail to finish off the Colts; losing 27-24.
“When you don’t play as well as you’d like on the road it’s hard to win against a good football team,” said Manning after the game, “and they are a good football team … we didn’t play our best and ended up not coming away with a win.”
The Broncos were on the verge of being shutout in the first half until, in the waning seconds of the second quarter, Omar Bolden returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown. In the second half the offense played better, until a late interception (which was more of a good play by Darius Butler than a bad one by Manning) in the fourth quarter prevented the team from scoring to either tie or take the lead.
It looked like the Broncos offense was going to get another chance, the Colts had just kicked a field goal to take a six-point lead; but Denver cornerback Aqib Talib would take an ill-advised unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the kick blatantly poking Indianapolis tight end Dwayne Allen in the eye. Though the penalty negated the kick, the Colts would get a fresh set of downs, and prove able to just run out the clock.
“From my angle, I see Allen head butt Von [Miller] a little bit. I went over to poke his head, and I think my hand slipped and hit his face,” Talib told the Denver Post. “He acted like he got in an 18-passenger car wreck. I guess that’s what type of guy he is.”
Unlike the rest of the Broncos’ games this season (all wins), the Denver defense proved to be the problem for much of the afternoon; with the offense keeping the team in the game (despite an inability to run the ball). A week after they stymied Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, they failed to get to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck consistently (sacking him only once), couldn’t stop the run effectively and had lapses in coverage.
“We were just out of whack today,” said safety T.J. Ward . “We just didn’t play Bronco football. Too many mistakes on defense. We didn’t tackle well. It wasn’t the scheme that got us. It was assignment errors and penalties.”
Their undefeated season down the drain, all hope is not lost for the Broncos however. They still have a three-game lead in the AFC West and half a season to right the ship after a one-game hiccup.
“We’re still the same team,” said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “We’ve still got playmakers; we just can’t bring this type of effort next week at all.”