A career day by Austin Collie and a defense that bent but didn't break propelled the Colts past the Broncos 27-13 on Sunday. Peyton Manning threw three TD passes and no interceptions for the third week in a row, and despite the defense allowing Kyle Orton to throw for a career-high 476 passing yards, it didn't allow a red-zone touchdown in five trips by the Broncos.
The PFW Spin
Head coach Jim Caldwell won't be happy with the coverage breakdowns in the secondary, and the pass rush generating only one sack and one hit on Kyle Orton, but his team found a way to overcome a shaky start from Manning and win a tough road game in a hostile environment without a few key contributors.
WLB Clint Session missed his second game in a row, and his replacement, rookie LB Kavell Conner, left the game in the first half with an injury. OLT Charlie Johnson was also unable to go as he continues to nurse the sore right foot that has been bothering him since training camp. Rookie Jeff Linkenbach played well in Johnson's absence.
Also inactive were Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez, allowing Collie, and second-year WR Blair White, who was making his NFL debut after being activated from the Colts' practice squad, to step into the spotlight. White hauled in three catches, including a pretty, nine-yard TD grab on a fade in the corner of the endzone that put the game away for good in the third quarter.
Collie was without question the Colts' biggest star on Sunday. He set career-highs in catches (12), yards (171) and TDs (two), and was virtually unstoppable much of the afternoon. After seeing limited action in Week Two — the Colts often lined up with two tight ends in order to rush the ball 43 times against the Giants — Collie made a statement against the Broncos that he needs to be on the field — even if it's at the expense of playing time for Garcon, who dropped some balls in the first two games.
On defense, there was plenty of blame to go around. Orton, who is playing the best football of his career, picked on CBs Jerraud Powers and Kelvin Hayden much of the afternoon. His top two targets, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd, found plenty of openings in the Colts' defense, in part because the pressure wasn't there from the front seven. The Colts must do a better job pressuring the quarterback and not allowing long passing plays in the coming weeks.
But in the end, there are three reasons why the Colts are back in the thick of the AFC South race.
• Tough red-zone "D" — the Colts forced the Broncos to turn the ball over on downs three times, including once when they stuffed Lawrence Maroney at the one-yard line in the second quarter.
• Winning the turnover battle — Jacob Lacey intercepted a Kyle Orton pass at the Colts' 35 and returned the ball 44 yards to set up Collie's first score and CB Justin Tryon recovered a muffed punt in the first quarter that resulted in an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
• The spectacular chemistry between Manning and Collie.