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Andrew Luck leads Colts to upset over Peyton, Broncos

Andrew Luck enjoyed his best game of the season, throwing for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the 4-5 Indianapolis Colts to a 27-24 upset victory over the 7-1 Denver Broncos. Here's what you need to know:

  1. The early returns on Rob Chudzinski taking over as the play-caller are extremely encouraging for Luck and the Colts offense. The receivers got open against Denver's star-studded secondary, leaving a more confident and decisive Luck with clear reads. Luck not only threw better than he has all year, but also made key plays with his legs against a dominant defense that was inspiring comparisons to the 2000 Ravens. With shoulder and rib injuries in the rear-view mirror, Luck is a prime candidate to turn his disappointing season around in the next two months.
  1. Peyton Manning fell three yards and four points shy of establishing new NFL records for career passing yards and quarterback wins, respectively. His first-half performance was reminiscent of last year's playoff loss to the Colts, missing on a series of downfield throws. Although he uncorked a beautiful deep ball to hit Emmanuel Sanders in stride for a 64-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Manning's fourth-quarter interception to Darius Butler sealed the Broncos' fate. As poorly as the Colts match up with the Patriots, they have knocked off Manning's Broncos in three of the last four meetings.
  1. Both teams lost key defenders to injuries. After moving to 10th place on the all-time sack list by taking Luck down in the first half, DeMarcus Ware missed the entire second half with a back injury. The Colts lost safety Mike Adams and defensive end Henry Anderson -- two bright spots in an otherwise dark season -- to ankle and knee injuries, respectively. Adams' absence contributed to Owen Daniels' season-high 102 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.
  1. Give the Colts credit for outplaying one of the NFL's superpowers in convincing fashion. The defense shut down the Broncos' ground attack and forced Manning into third-and-long situations. Luck's offense scored 27 points, the most allowed by Denver's top-ranked defense this season. Without Omar Bolden's buzzer-beating punt-return touchdown and Manning's 64-yard strike, this could have been a blow-out.
  1. While Daniels found creases in Indianapolis' defense, Vernon Davis was a non-factor in his first game with Denver. Davis drew just one target deep down the sideline, but failed to make a play when the defensive back got away with pinning the speedy tight end's arm down at the catch point.
  1. Prior to last week's victory over the Packers, Ronnie Hillman had outplayed a sluggish C.J. Anderson every week, going back to the start of the preseason. Now recovered from nagging injuries, Anderson has been the better back over the past two weeks. He should be featured going forward.
  1. It's shocking to see Griff Whalen outplaying Andre Johnson, who was shut out on three targets and dropped a perfectly thrown tight-window throw for Luck. Whalen, meanwhile, has caught 10 of 11 targets for 121 yards over the past two weeks.
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