- WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 20; 8:30 p.m. EDT
- WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
- TV: NBC
- SERIES RECORD: Broncos lead, 11-8 (Colts lead 2-0 in the postseason)
- JOHN FOX'S RECORD: 1-1
- PEYTON MANNING'S RECORD: 0-0
- SERIES STREAK: Indianapolis has won five straight and five of the last six at home (in both cases, including playoffs).
- LAST TIME: Colts 27, Broncos 13; Sept. 26, 2010. Kyle Orton threw for 151 more yards and averaged 0.8 more yards per attempt than Manning, but Orton and the Denver offense transformed from a purring Corvette to a broken-down rickshaw when it hit scoring range. Six drives that advanced to at least the Colts' 35-yard-line netted a meager six points. Five of them made it to the red zone, with only a pair of
Matt Praterfield goals and three turnovers on downs to show for them. Still, the Broncos had a shot until Manning found Austin Collie for a 48-yard reception on third-and-15 from the Indianapolis 17 during the fourth quarter; four plays later, Manning hit Collie again for a 23-yard, game-clinching score.
- LAST TIME IN INDIANAPOLIS: Colts 28, Broncos 16; Dec. 13, 2009. Brandon Marshall tied an NFL record with 21 receptions, but all he could do was bring the Broncos close. They fell behind 14-0 before mustering a first down and never caught up, although 16 consecutive points brought the Broncos within 21-16 in the fourth quarter. Indianapolis responded by brushing aside the Broncos with a 14-play, 80-yard march that consumed 7:19, forced the Broncos to use all of their timeouts and saw Manning complete four of five passes for 55 yards and the game-clinching score. The three plays the Broncos ran on their first possession were their only snaps with a single-digit deficit. Marshall left the game as the only wide receiver in NFL history to catch at least 15 passes in a game while averaging under 10 yards per reception, and he's done it twice. (Three running backs and one tight end also accomplished this.)
NOTING THE GAME:
- Barring injury, this projects to a quarterbacking duel between
Peyton Manningand his Colts successor, Andrew Luck. It's Manning's first game against the team he redefined and whose record book he rewrote from 1998-2011. No big deal. Just prepare for seven days of shorelines about how Manning and Luck will always be connected, because if Luck hadn't been the prize for the Colts' 2011 collapse without an injured Manning, then Frank Tripucka would still be the last Bronco to wear No. 18 in the regular season.
- This game is not just a return for Manning; former Colts
Lance Balland Jacob Tammeare slated to use the visitors' locker room for the first time at Lucas Oil Stadium. Former Broncos cornerback Cassius Vaughn is also on the Colts roster; this would be his first game against Denver since being traded from the Broncos in May 2012.
- This will be just the third road appearance for the Broncos on Sunday night since NBC began its prime-time broadcasts in 2006. Denver is 1-1 on the road on the NBC version of Sunday Night Football. (The Broncos head into the season 4-2 in home NBC Sunday night games, including three consecutive wins). Overall, the Broncos are 20-15 on Sunday night -- 12-6 at home, 8-9 on the road.
- The Colts will be a fascinating team to watch this year. On the one hand, there's the statistical possibility of significant regression, given that the Colts improved by nine games in 2012 and went 11-5 in spite of a minus-30 point differential. Drawing the demanding NFC West for interconference play doesn't help, either. But the expected improvement of Luck from his first year to his second -- and the likely progress of 2012 rookies Coby Fleener, T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen -- and an improved offensive line are factors that make sustaining their progress possible. The other wild card for the Colts is the loss of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who fared so well as interim head coach last year that he got the head-coaching shot he craved for so long, taking the Cardinals job. Arians' replacement is Pep Hamilton, who was the offensive coordinator at Stanford during Luck's final season there.
- It's rare for a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback to leave the team he once defined, then return on the visiting sideline. For instance, Joe Montana played against the 49ers after joining the Chiefs, but did so at Arrowhead Stadium, and was spared the awkwardness of a return. So was Y.A. Tittle, who played four years for the Giants from 1961-64 -- but never against the 49ers. In 2008, Drew Brees faced his old Chargers club in a "road" game -- but in London, not at Qualcomm Stadium. Still, the scenario Manning will face is not a prescription for failure. In 2009, Brett Favre led the Vikings to a win in his first post-Packers trip to Lambeau Field (he didn't go back there for a regular-season game as a Jet). Four years earlier, Kurt Warner guided Arizona to a 38-28 win at St. Louis in his return to the Edward Jones Dome; Warner would finish his career 4-0 as the Cardinals' starter in St. Louis. (He also went 1-1 for the Cardinals at Giants Stadium, but nine games as a bridge starter for the Giants until Eli Manning was ready hardly counts as defining a team.) But Bobby Layne found his return game much more difficult; in 1962, he led the Steelers into Detroit and fell, 45-7.