Denver Broncos’ quarterback, Peyton Manning, made his return to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night to face his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, after being released following the 2011 season. He would face off against his successor, No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck. It was an emotional homecoming for the Super Bowl XLI MVP, the championship he brought to Indianapolis. Last week’s comments from Colts’ owner Jim Irsay regarding Manning’s stint with the organization created, among other things, more anticipation for the game.
The night began with a pre-game video tribute to the 12-time Pro Bowler. At the video’s conclusion, fans in attendance gave a standing ovation, which Manning acknowledged by taking off his helmet.
The welcoming presence would end there.
Manning was under pressure most of the night, being sacked four times. He had only been sacked six times prior to this game. The offensive line was shuffled following the loss of Pro-Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady after suffering a Lisfranc injury in Week 2 against the New York Giants. Clady would have been matched up against Robert Mathis who made several big plays throughout the evening, including a hit on Manning that caused a safety.
On this night, the Broncos’ offense did not resemble the well-oiled machine we had become used to. It makes sense as the Colts were the 4th ranked defense, in terms of points allowed. The result was several three and outs. Return specialist Trindon Holliday normally provides a spark. He lost a fumble on the Broncos’ end of the field, resulting in a Colts score. Running back Ronnie Hillman lost a fumble near the goal line late in the game, preventing a much needed Bronco score.
Andrew Luck had his offense clicking, with little resistance from a Broncos’ defense, specifically its’ suspect secondary. He threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns, running for an additional score in the red zone, with no interceptions. Teammate Antoine Bethea knew Luck had it in him:
“Andrew’s a stud. I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he can do on the football field, the way he leads this offense. What he does for this team, it’s huge. On this stage, he handled it well. It’s his team now.”
In one of the biggest games of his career, Luck made a statement, leading his team to an impressive win. With all the attention surrounding the return of No. 18, on a national primetime stage, No. 12 made sure you knew it was his team indeed.
The Indianapolis Colts won 39-33.
Follow O’Cephus Starks