Indianapolis — Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler played like a relaxed reliever on Thursday.
He couldn’t have picked a better time.
With Paxton Lynch inactive and Trevor Siemian out after two series, Osweiler trotted onto the field, ran for one touchdown and threw for two more to lead the Broncos past Indianapolis, 25-13, for their first road win of the season.
“I was just a little kid having fun tonight,” Osweiler said. “That’s really what it was. I’ve been on a little bit of a rollercoaster ride for about two years. Just to go out there, Thursday Night Football, with my teammates, I was just having fun.”
The difference was obvious.
Osweiler played more like the guy Denver (5-9) took in the second round of the 2012 draft and the guy Broncos fans remember filling in for the injured Peyton Manning during the 2015 Super Bowl season.
He wound up 12 of 17 with 194 yards and no turnovers and ran for an 18-yard touchdown, too. C.J. Anderson ran 30 times for a season-high 158 yards.
Denver may need Osweiler to keep playing this way a couple more times after Siemian was diagnosed with a sprained left shoulder. Coach Vance Joseph couldn’t say whether he’d have his starting quarterback against Washington.
If Siemian can’t go, Osweiler may get another shot.
“He played with great poise,” Joseph said. “He played great, clean football and it led to a win.”
That’s two wins in five days — and the Broncos’ first outside the Mile High City since Dec. 4, 2016. The victory assures Denver of avoiding its first winless season on the road since 1964.
But it sure wasn’t easy, and at times, it was downright rugged.
Siemian was taken to the locker room after being driven into the ground by Colts linebacker Barkevious Mingo late in the first quarter.
A much scarier scene played out with 14:01 left in the second when Denver linebacker Deiontrez Mount appeared to make helmet-to-helmet contact with Colts tight end Brandon Williams on punt protection. Williams was knocked over backward and stayed on the ground as trainers and doctors strap him to a backboard and removed his facemask.
When Williams was lifted onto a cart, his teammates came over to offer support.
Coach Chuck Pagano said Williams had a concussion and had returned to the team’s training room after initially being taken to a local hospital.
“We erred on the side of caution and, rightfully so, taking care of him,” Pagano said. “But he’s back here, he’s doing well.”
Indianapolis’ struggles continue, though. The Colts (3-11) have lost five straight, the longest skid in Pagano’s six-year tenure, and will post their first losing season at home since 2011.
The game pretty much went as expected.
Jacoby Brissett scored on a 7-yard run and Adam Vinatieri gave Indy a 10-0 lead with a 45-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. All Indy could muster the rest of the night was a 39-yard field goal early in the third.
Osweiler, meanwhile, rallied the Broncos.
His touchdown run just before halftime made it 10-7. He gave Denver the lead with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Cody Latimer with 4:16 left in the third and then added a 54-yard TD strike to Jeff Heuerman to make it 22-13 following a 2-point conversion toss to Latimer.
“We had a really good rhythm offensively and we were able to mix the run and the pass,” Osweiler said. “I was going to lay it all out there.”
The Packers are hoping the return of Aaron Rodgers can propel them into the postseason.
But the Packers (7-6) are going to need plenty of help aside from the two-time NFL Most Valuable Player’s return, as they remain on the outside looking in at the NFC playoff race entering Sunday’s game against the Panthers.
Green Bay is three games behind Minnesota with three games remaining, so winning the NFC North is considered a long shot.
The Packers trail the Panthers (9-4), Falcons (8-5) and Seahawks (8-5) in the race for two wild-card spots.
Rodgers knows the Packers have to win all three remaining games, but downplayed his first start since breaking his collarbone in Week 6.
“Hopefully it gives a lift to some of the guys but I’m not coming back to save this team,” Rodgers said. “I’m coming back to play quarterback the way I know how to play it.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he wasn’t surprised Rodgers was able to return so quickly given how aggressively he attacked his rehabilitation — and his desire to win.
“He couldn’t do any more than you possibly could as far as clearing each threshold that you have to to come back,” McCarthy said.
Further south, Rodgers’ return has been greeted with a mere shrug of the shoulders.
“To us it shouldn’t be a big deal,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
“They said he was going to be back for our game. That’s what we expected. I don’t want our guys getting caught up in it. I want our guys focusing on getting prepared.”
The Giants have placed offensive lineman Justin Pugh on injured reserve with a back injury.
... Injured quarterback Josh McCown will travel with the Jets to New Orleans this weekend and serve as a player-coach on the sideline against the Saints.
McCown is out for the season with a broken left hand, which he suffered in New York’s 23-0 loss at Denver last Sunday. McCown, 38, had surgery Tuesday and was back with the team Wednesday, sporting a black cast on his non-throwing hand.