Indianapolis scored on all five of its second-half possessions in a 34-31 win at Denver on Sunday. The Broncos had no answer for Colts quarterback Peyton Manning completed 32 of 39 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns. Denver allowed only two touchdowns in its first six games.
Denver finally had a good game on offense, but it still resulted in a loss.
"The offense did everything it possibly could to put us in good situations, and we pretty much laid an egg on them," defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban said.
This season the Broncos have had a simple approach. Instead of blitzing heavily, as they did last year, they let the defensive line get pressure and the talented linebackers and defensive backs keep plays in front of them.
That didn't work against Manning. Denver's line, which had been effective, was stonewalled. Manning rarely was hit, and he wasn't sacked once. That put a heavy burden on Denver's cornerbacks.
"When guys run 20-yard routes, and he comes back to 10, you'd think the ball would be gone before then, but it's not," Bailey said. "That's hard on the outside guys."
Denver was in a tough spot because Manning is the best quarterback in the NFL against the blitz. The Broncos blitzed on Indianapolis' final drive, but Manning hit Reggie Wayne for a 13-yard gain. Broncos safety John Lynch said he didn't think Denver had the wrong approach.
"We believe in what we're doing," Lynch said.
Cornerback Darrent Williams had a tough day against Wayne. Wayne had 10 catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns. Wayne also caught a two-point conversion. Williams, who is in his second year, didn't speak to the media after the game. Wayne had a big game against Denver in the playoffs two years ago, repeatedly beating rookie Roc Alexander, but cornerback Champ Bailey said the two situations aren't comparable.
"It's night and day from that year," Bailey said. "It is not the same. Darrent played well. He played great. It's just one of those things. You play a guy like Peyton Manning, if he's going to put it on the money, what can you do, really?"
The Broncos' offense blamed itself for failing to score a touchdown on its final drive. They had a first down at Indianapolis' 32-yard line with the score tied 31-31. But two runs picked up one yard, and a pass on third down was incomplete.
Jason Elam kicked a 49-yard field goal to tie the game, but there was still 1:49 left on the clock, which was way too much time for Manning.
"Everybody knew that was a quite a bit of time for a guy like him and a kicker like they have," Alexander said.
Denver plays at Pittsburgh next Sunday, so they have to bounce back from a tough loss quickly. The Broncos are tied for first place in the AFC West with San Diego, which won on Sunday.
"It's not going to be a fun night and it's not going to be fun tomorrow, but we have to get ready to come back and win next week," quarterback Jake Plummer said.
--OT Erik Pears started for injured Matt Lepsis at left tackle. Pears held his own against Colts end Dwight Freeney, although the Broncos helped him by rolling out Jake Plummer to the right and chipping Freeney with backs and receivers.
--RB Mike Bell played most of the second half, and rushed for 135
yards and two touchdowns after halftime. Starter Tatum Bell has been
bothered by a turf toe injury and couldn't cut back in Sunday's game. Mike
Bell ran very well, which will force Denver to reevaluate its running
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