INDIANAPOLIS— Everybody expected a barnburner when the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos hooked on national television Sunday night.
The 67,196 fans who crowded into Lucas Oil Stadium didn’t go home unhappy.
With quarterback Andrew Luck leading the way, the Indianapolis Colts outlasted the Denver Broncos 39-33 in Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis.
The Colts took a 26-14 lead into the locker room at halftime thanks to three touchdown pass from Luck, one each to wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey (11 yards), fullback Stanley Havili (20 yards) and tight end Coby Fleener (8 yards).
Indianapolis also got on the scoreboard on a 27-yard field goal by Adam Vinateri and safety, which occurred when outside linebacker Robert Mathis strip sacked Manning at the Denver nine-yard line and the ball went out of the left side of the end zone.
Outside linebacker Erik Walden tried to recover the ball for a touchdown but could not come up with it before he slid out of bounds.
Denver had taken a 14-10 lead with 11:56 left in the first half when Manning fired a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas in the back of the end zone. Thomas out-reached Colts safety Antoine Bethea on the play.
The Broncos had taken a 7-0 lead with 8:16 remaining in the first quarter on a 17-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Eric Decker. The Manning to Decker combination had set up the TD with a 39-yard pass down the right sidelines.
Indianapolis added a 10-yard scramble for a touchdown by Luck with five minutes left in the third quarter and a 52-yard field goal by Vinatieri at the 12:59 mark of the fourth quarter.
Denver battled back on a 31-yard field goal by Prater with 0:42 left in the third quarter and a 31-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas at the 12:11 mark of the fourth quarter.