DENVER --It shouldn't be a surprise now.
This is just what these Broncos do.
Since the start of the 2015 season, the Broncos have won 17 games, including Sunday's 34-20 decision over the Indianapolis Colts. In 15 of them, the defense was on the field in the last eight minutes of fourth quarter and/or overtime, tasked with preserving a lead or a tie score.
In the crunch when many defenses crumble, Denver's defense has left its foe a crumpled wreck. Sometimes it would take a while, as in January's AFC Championship Game, when the defense needed two red-zone stops before the game-sealing two-point conversion.
But whether it's with a stop at the doorstep of the goal line, a turnover on downs or a takeaway, this defense has finished the job.
It hasn't mattered who the opposing quarterback is. They strip-sacked Cam Newton and Teddy Bridgewater. They pick-sixed Derek Carr. They sacked Tom Brady in overtime last November and intercepted his two-point conversion attempt last January. They intercepted Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford and Joe Flacco. They brought down "Big" Ben Roethlisberger in January redeeming themselves for a letdown at Heinz Field a month earlier.
"If the game's on the line on defense, you can almost guarantee that's we're going to finish the game and win it for us," said Chris Harris Jr. "We like that. We were in that position all year last year so coming into this year, same thing."
The quarterbacks they face change. The result remains the same: the defense making the stop that matters most.
"There's always belief," ILB Brandon Marshall said. "We know we have the best defense in the league. No matter how much time or who we're playing against, we know we're good."
So why would it be different against Andrew Luck, even though he has led eight two-score comebacks in his career and was poised to go for a ninth Sunday?
"They call him the comeback kid," said Marshall.
Not against this defense, he wasn't. Not against Von Miller, who worked past Joe Reitz and engulfed Luck, jarring the football loose and allowing Shane Ray to scoop it up for the game-clinching touchdown.
It was a thorough return to the dominance of last season after last week's penalty-strewn close-and-late series that was salvaged when Carolina kicker Graham Gano hooked a potential game-winning field-goal attempt.
That performance was "terrible" in the eyes of Chris Harris Jr. He had a different take Sunday.
"Today, I'd give us an A-plus, man," Harris said "Andrew Luck averages 330 to 350 [yards] passing. We were able to keep him under 200 yards and I was able to shut down T.Y. [Hilton]. That was an A-plus game."
It shouldn't be a surprise -- even when it comes against the team that has inflicted more pain on the Broncos than any other, not just in recent years, but decades.
That's the Colts. It hasn't mattered whether Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck was taking snaps with a horseshoe on his helmet; the result was the same.
No one has ended more Broncos postseason trips under Pat Bowlen's ownership than the Colts. No one outside the AFC West has defeated the Broncos more often since Bowlen bought the team.
Over the years, the Colts beat the Broncos in every way. Sometimes they kept them at arm's length, as in 2009, 2010, 2013 and the 2014 playoffs. Sometimes they delivered a gut-punch comeback, as in 2006. And sometimes, like in the 2003 and 2004 playoffs, it was a rout from the start.
When Manning exchanged the horseshoe for the horse's profile, that didn't change. Luck made sure of that. Colts wins in 2013 and 2015 ended the Broncos' dreams of undefeated seasons. The Colts' win in the divisional playoffs of January 2015 ended the Broncos' season, period.
It was time for at least some measure of payback.
"We felt that we owed Andrew Luck because he's beaten us the last few times that we've played him," said safety T.J. Ward.
"It's been a tough go-around just to play the Colts," Marshall added. "Andrew Luck, they call him the comeback kid ... and that's one thing you're worried about when it's 26-20, we were like, 'OK, we've got to be on our P's and Q's.'"
They were, and that made this one a bit sweeter than most.
"Most definitely," running back C.J. Anderson said. "I'm [2-3] against the Colts. Hopefully we can play them two more times."
They won't, at least not this season. But that's not their only hope. They also hope to keep winning -- and to win more comfortably.
Still, the white-knuckle formula is working.
"We're accustomed to it, we're used to it," Harris said, "and we like winning on defense."
The Broncos defeated the Colts to move to 2-0 after a dominant defensive performance at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (Photos by Eric Bakke unless noted)