DENVER – ** Coming into Sunday's game, the Broncos knew that Andrew Luck was a formidable opponent. Only 25 years old, he led the Colts to a near comeback the first time these two teams played this season, despite his team being down by 24 points.
Luck proved his playmaking ability and how deceptive he can be, ending the Broncos' season with a 24-13 Colts win.
"Andrew Luck is a good quarterback," DeMarcus Ware said. "We knew what we were getting into when he first came here, the first game. But the thing is, we didn't play consistent enough to win and you have to go back and reevaluate things."
Early on, the Broncos were able to get consistent pressure on Luck, but he "can beat you with his feet and his arm," according to Terrance Knighton. The Broncos were unable to get to Luck for a sack in the matchup, but they came extremely close on multiple occasions.
Luck was able to get the ball out fast and find his receivers.
Check out the action from an explosive second half in Denver, where the Broncos coasted to a 47-14 win.
"You just have to know how to play against a guy like that," Knighton said. "We felt like if we did a good job of keeping him in the pocket and getting to him, our DBs would do a good enough job on their receivers. We didn't put enough pressure on him to make it easier for our DBs and I just think as a collective whole, as a team, they out executed us."
One of those near game-changing plays was when Ware almost got to Luck on second-and-9 in the fourth quarter. Ware's hand barely missed the ball on what could have been a turnover. The Broncos were down by just eight at that point and the Colts drove down the field for a field goal, taking up over eight minutes of the clock and making it a two-score game.
Von Miller also had a couple near sacks, but the Ware-Miller duo, who helped the Broncos rack up 41 sacks on the season, were unable to take him down.
"We fought hard," Miller said. "There's a lot of stuff that we've got to get better at. I'm still confident in the team that we have and the team that we will have. You know, our front office, John Elway and Coach Fox and all the guys over there, they create this for us and they'll keep creating for us to help us be better in the future. So I'm confident with where we're at and I don't think this loss defines this season.
"We lost, it was tough, but I don't think this loss will define our team in the future."
Luck finished Sunday's game 27-of-43 with 265 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a rating of 76.2. Luck's ability to extend plays was put on display on Sunday.
He showed poise in the pocket and was able to convert on multiple third-and-longs, including a third-and-16 in the third quarter, when he found Coby Fleener for a 32-yard gain. The Colts went on to score a 15-yard TD, going ahead 21-10.
Chris Harris Jr. noted that the first time these teams matched up, the defense was able to hold them to field goals. He wasn't surprised by how well the Colts played them.
"Andrew Luck, man, he extended some plays, made some key touchdowns in the red zone, but other than that, I wouldn't say they dominated us," Harris said. "I would just say that in the red zone they scored and we didn't get them to kick field goals and that was a big difference."
Earlier this week, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio was asked how the Colts are so successful despite being a one-dimensional team (they rank No. 25 in the league in rushing yards per play). He noted that even though they do find success in the air, Luck can always take off and run with the ball. Luck was able to scramble for 20 yards and a first down in the second quarter, but the Broncos would force them to punt the ball away to end the drive.
"You're getting their run game that way," he said on Thursday. "He's a good quarterback. He's a good competitor. I think last year's Kansas City game shows that they are never out of it. It's the kind of opponent that you have to play 60 minutes worth of good football against."
The Colts finished the regular season ranked in the top five in multiple offensive categories (yards per game, passing yards per game, passing yards per play and first downs per game). Much of that success can be attributed to Luck.
"Well, I think, remind ourselves that's a pretty good offense—I think maybe top-five if not top-two in the league over time," Head Coach John Fox said after the game. "So, it wasn't like we sat the whole game and played four-man rush, I mean we brought pressure. Give them credit, they protected well and Andrew is a good quarterback. He avoided the rush, made some plays with his feet, bought some time.
"They scored enough points to win."