Luck, who replaced Manning as quarterback of the Colts, threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns, ran for another score and didn't even need a fourth-quarter comeback to end Denver's 17-game regular-season streak with a 39-33 victory Sunday night.
While Luck was terrific in prime time, completing 21 of 38 passes, his predecessor was not himself. Manning finished 29 of 49 for 386 yards with three TDs, one interception and was sacked four times, leaving the Kansas City Chiefs as the NFL's only unbeaten team.
Passes sailed high, passes fluttered and the man who usually escapes trouble with his quick thinking and quick release was sacked twice and lost a fumble near the goal line. Robert Mathis, one of the few holdovers from the Manning Era, got one of his trademark strip sacks in the second quarter — a mistake that led to nine points for Indianapolis (5-2).
“This is a game we need to learn from,” Manning said. “We, I guess, had four turnovers and still somehow had a chance to win that game. I certainly would have liked to have seen it go to a 2-point game down at the end, but we never got there. We certainly have to improve because we weren't as sharp execution-wise as we would like to be.”
The offense that was on a record scoring pace and seemed virtually unstoppable over the first six weeks managed only two first-half touchdowns and opened the third quarter with three straight three-and-outs.
Kick returner Trindon Holliday twice fumbled the ball, with one leading to an Indianapolis touchdown, and the defense of the Broncos (6-1) that spent nearly three-fourths of the season playing with the lead came unglued in the third quarter with penalty after penalty aiding Colts drives.
It was not the evening Manning had planned after making the long journey back to Lucas Oil Stadium, the retractable-roof house he helped build by turning the Colts from an afterthought into a perennial powerhouse.
When Manning first ran onto the field, some sections in the lower bowl looked like a checkerboard of Colts blue and Broncos orange.
“I hope we get a chance to play these guys and maybe if there is a next time, it might be a little easier because it certainly was an emotionally draining week, there's no doubt about that,” Manning said.
Still, the game could prove costly for both teams.
Denver cornerback Champ Bailey left in the second quarter with a left foot injury, the same foot that kept him out of the first five games this season.