Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) spike the ball as he celebrates his touchdown during the second half. Indianapolis defeated Denver, 39-33, in Peyton Manning's return to the place where his NFL career started. (Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Indianapolis — It was just Peyton Manning’s luck.
On his first trip back to Lucas Oil Stadium, he and his teammates had an off night. His successor and his old team, they got it right.
Andrew Luck threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score Sunday night, handing Denver a 39-33 loss — its first of the season — without even needing one of Luck’s trademark fourth-quarter comebacks.
“It’s not real fun watching him,” Luck said of Manning. “But he is something to watch.”
Heading into the game, Manning and Denver (6-1) looked virtually unbeatable. The Broncos were scoring points by the dozens in the midst of a 17-game regular-season winning streak and showed no signs of even hitting a speed bump.
Then came what was supposed to be Manning’s happy homecoming. Nothing went right and now the Kansas City Chiefs are the NFL’s lone unbeaten team.
He lost a fumble, threw an interception and was sacked four times — twice by Robert Mathis, one of the few remaining holdovers from the Manning era.
Broncos kick returner Trindon Holliday fumbled twice, losing one that led to a Colts touchdown.
Denver’s defense committed inexplicable penalties throughout the second half, giving the Colts more opportunities than they needed, and the Broncos’ last good chance fizzled when Denver running back Ronnie Hillman lost a fumble inside the Colts 5-yard line with 3:03 left in the game.
With Luck and the Colts repeatedly taking advantage, even Manning couldn’t rescue the Broncos.
While Manning finished with solid numbers, 29 of 49 for 386 yards with three TD passes, he certainly wasn’t himself. Passes fluttered, passes sailed, passes were broken up.
Luck was 21 of 38 for 228 yards with three scores and no turnovers in ending Denver’s pursuit of perfection. Indianapolis (5-2) extended its lead in the AFC South and still hasn’t lost consecutive games since Luck arrived in the NFL last year.
“This is a game we need to learn from. We, I guess, had four turnovers and still somehow had a chance to win that game,” Manning said. “I would have liked to have seen it go to a two-point game down there toward the end and see what would have happened, but it never quite got to that point. You can go back to different parts of the game and we got behind, mistakes there, but we still had a chance there at the end. We certainly have to improve from this game because we weren’t as sharp execution-wise as we’d like to be.”
Admittedly, this was no typical night for Manning.
The weekend’s marquee matchup was the NFL’s most anticipated homecoming since Brett Favre went back to Green Bay — with the dreaded Minnesota Vikings — in 2009.
Indy’s former franchise quarterback dealt with questions all week about owner Jim Irsay’s most recent comments expressing disappointment with winning just one Super Bowl title during the Manning years, then arrived to find out the roof and window at Lucas Oil Stadium would be open on a chilly night inside the house he helped build.
And when he first ran onto the field, some sections in the lower bowl looked like a checkerboard of Colts blue and Broncos orange. They roared for No. 18 throughout a 90-second video tribute featuring some of his most memorable moments with the Colts including the record-breaking pass to Marvin Harrison for most TDs by a quarterback-receiver duo, the AFC championship comeback against New England and, of course, the evening when he finally hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in rainy Miami.
Manning responded to the standing ovation by stopping his warm-up throws, taking off his helmet, waving to the fans and mouthing the words “Thank you.”
The large video screen then cut to a fan holding a sign that that read “Thanks Peyton But Tonight I’m A Colts Fan.”
Afterward, he acknowledged it was an emotional game.
But the Broncos were dealing with far bigger issues on the field.
After Holliday fumbled, Luck hooked up with Darrius Heyward-Bey on the next play to give Indy a 10-7 lead.
Mathis’ second-quarter strip sack forced a safety and Luck found Stanley Havili for a 20-yard TD pass after the free kick to make it 19-14. Indy never trailed again.
“That’s my job, that’s how I help my team,” Mathis said. “It felt good.”
The Colts extended the lead to 26-14 at halftime and 33-14 in the third quarter when Luck scrambled for a 10-yard TD during a drive on which four flags came out on Denver defenders.
Then Manning rallied the Broncos, throwing a 31-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas early in the fourth and handing off to Knowshon Moreno for a 1-yard TD run to make it 36-30 with 8:44 left in the game.
Denver forced a punt, giving Manning another chance as the stadium noise subsided. But on the first play, Erik Walden hit Manning’s arm and Pat Angerer picked it off to set up Adam Vinatieri’s 42-yard field goal.
“Hopefully we’ll have a chance to play these guys again because that would mean we made the playoffs,” Manning said. “I think if there is a next time it may be a little bit easier just because it was somewhat of an emotional week and it can be a little bit draining, I will say that.”
(At) N.Y. Jets 30, New England 27 (OT): After a newly instituted rule gave New England a penalty and Nick Folk another chance, he booted a 42-yard field goal with 5:07 left in overtime to give the Jets a victory.
“I was like, ‘You know what? It’s about time we got a break,’
“That’s really what I was thinking. It just worked out.”
Folk was wide left on a 56-yarder, but the miss was negated when New England’s Chris Jones was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on a 15-yard penalty that had never before been called in an NFL game.
Belichick disagreed with the application of the rule.
“You can’t push in the second level,” Belichick said. “I didn’t think we did that.”
New York (4-3), given new life, ran the ball three times to set up Folk’s winner and send the green towel-waving fans at MetLife Stadium into a frenzy.
“It was something that we talked about probably in camp and stuff, and it just skipped out of my mind,” Jones said. olk thought the Patriots (5-2) might have been called for 12 men on the field. So did a few other Jets.
“I think I heard the whole stadium saying, ‘Please be on them,’
Then Folk won it.
“Folk Hero was the man he always is, kicking game-winner for us,” Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson said.
It also kept Folk’s consecutive kicks streak intact, giving him 16 straight to start the season.
Geno Smith threw a touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley and ran for another as the Jets topped Tom Brady and the Patriots, who tied it at 27 with 16 seconds left in regulation on Stephen Gostkowski’s 44-yard field goal.
New England had defeated New York in six straight regular-season meetings, and saw its 12-game winning streak against AFC East opponents end.
(At) Green Bay 31, Cleveland 13: Aaron Rodgers threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns and Eddie Lacy ran for another score for the Packers (4-2), who claimed first place in the NFC North with their third straight victory.
Lacy finished with 82 yards, while tight end Jermichael Finley had a 10-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter before being taken off the field on a stretcher with a neck injury.
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was 17 for 42 for 149 yards. The Browns’ Jordan Cameron caught a 2-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
(At) Kansas City 17, Houston 16: Jamaal Charles ran for 86 yards and a touchdown and Alex Smith also ran for a score for the Chiefs (7-0).
Texans QB Case Keenum was stripped by linebacker Tamba Hali at his 2. Derrick Johnson recovered the fumble for the Chiefs. Smith simply kneeled on it from there as time ran out, allowing Kansas City to extend the second-best start in franchise history. The 2003 team began the season 9-0.
Texans Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Cushing left later in the third quarter with what appeared to be a left knee injury.
(At) Carolina 30, St. Louis 15: Cam Newton completed 15 of 17 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers.
The Rams (3-4) lost their cool with several personal foul penalties — and then lost quarterback Sam Bradford to a left knee injury late in the fourth quarter.
Panthers quarterback Captain Munnerlyn intercepted Bradford on the game’s first play and returned it 35 yards for a score.
(At) Pittsburgh 19, Baltimore 16: Shaun Suisham drilled a 42-yard field goal with no time remaining to lift the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 19-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Suisham’s fourth field goal of the day pushed the Steelers (2-4) to their second straight win.
Ben Roethlisberger completed 17 of 23 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. He hit Antonio Brown for a pair of big gains on Pittsburgh’s final drive, putting Suisham well within range to win it. Running back Le’Veon Bell ran for a season-high 93 yards on 19 carries.
Joe Flacco passed for 215 yards and a touchdown but couldn’t stop the defending Super Bowl champions from losing for the third time in their last four games.
Buffalo 23, (at) Miami 21: Mario Williams forced a fumble when he sacked Ryan Tannehill with less than three minutes left, setting up the winning field goal for the Bills. Miami (3-3) lost its third straight.
Kicker Dan Carpenter, released in August after five seasons with the Dolphins, beat his former team by making a 31-yarder with 33 seconds to go.
Rookie Nickell Robey returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game to help the Bills build an early 14-0 lead.
(At) Atlanta 31, Tampa Bay 23: Matt Ryan threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Jacquizz Rodgers, and the Falcons ended their three-game losing streak.
Harry Douglas had seven receptions for a career-best 149 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown catch, for the Falcons (2-4).
Falcons safety William Moore sacked Mike Glennon to force a fumble on Tampa Bay’s first possession.
Safety Thomas DeCoud returned the fumble recovery 30 yards for a touchdown.
San Francisco 31, (at) Tennessee 17: Colin Kaepernick threw for 199 yards and ran for 68 and a touchdown, helping the 49ers (5-2) win their fourth straight.
Frank Gore also ran for a pair of 1-yard TDs for San Francisco. Former Lion Kassim Osgood recovered a muffed punt for a TD.
The Titans (3-4) lost their third straight.
San Diego 24, (at) Jacksonville 6: Philip Rivers threw for 285 yards and a touchdown and Ryan Mathews ran for 110 yards and a score, for the Chargers (4-3).
Rivers completed his first 14 passes,. He finished 22 of 26.
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Sunday's NFL roundup: Peyton Manning falls short in return to Indianapolis
Andrew Luck threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score Sunday night, handing Denver a 39-33 loss — its first of the season — without even needing one of Luck's trademark fourth-quarter
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