The Broncos and Colts each went into Thursday night’s AFC encounter battered and injured without taking offense. And did they succeed in the most-watched “competition”? Injuries, three-and-outs, and forced errors mark a poor rivalry, with Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan taking turns trying to outdo each other with negative play. The back and forth turned so brutal that neither side could reach the end zone for four quarters, resulting in a combined six field goals in a 9-9 tie that forced extra time. The Colts won the coin toss, added another field goal, and took Denver fourth and 1st in the red zone to secure a 12-9 win.
Previously, the Broncos had taken a 6-3 first-half lead thanks to two field goals from Brandon McManus, but both teams entered the break – and then extra time – looking like losers. Indy’s win took the team to 2-2-1, while Denver dropped to 2-3 from a losing year. But both teams still have big questions to answer to move forward.
Why did the Colts win
It’s not because they played the full game or anything, that’s for sure. Ryan screamed and screamed on his way to the dressing room after claiming the win no thanks to him or indeed the entire Colts foul. Looking at his own age, 37-year-old Ryan swings a collapsing bag and suffers a whip that includes six sacks and more punches. It’s a wonder he’s still standing to lead the OT green light movement. But give credit to Alec Pierce and Michael Pittman Jr. for taking advantage of the often suspicious throws Ryan sent them. And he certainly provided defense without Shaquille Leonard, but that had absolutely nothing to do with what Denver did with the ball in their hands. DeForest Buckner took the lead, leading a four-bag effort that pressured Wilson for two interceptions, even as a rookie. But the whole ‘D’ happened at the most crucial moment, forcing the Broncos to finish 0-for-4 in the red.
Why did the Broncos lose?
QB superstar you traded and gave $235 million? Yes, it might be broken. Wilson brought life back to life at the last second and almost led Denver to an extra-time win, but in the previous four quarters he acted as one of the most awkward and most inaccurate starters in the NFL. Despite another superb display from Courtland Sutton, almost all desire to push the ball down was lost. Most of the sacks had run out, so all four were swallowed at the wrong time. And so ended the clutch decision in which Russ spectacularly forced two throws – one in, one in the end zone – which was finally over. The Denver defense swept the floor with Ryan and almost single-handedly won the game despite losing veterans like Josey Jewell to injury. Yet again, Nathaniel Hackett’s unit failed to function cohesively. Mike Boone showed playmaking ability in place of Javonte Williams, but that didn’t matter as they sniffed the end zone.
When the game starts for guaranteeing more than 60 minutes of pre-season football? No, instead you can look at Hackett’s decision to finish fourth and 1st, with 2:38 OT and the Colts just starting the field goal game. The coach could have played it safe and dragged McManus to score again to draw 12-12 and hope Indy missed the next ball. But he kept Russ on the field, certainly aware he didn’t trust the QB star in the team’s week 1 prime-time loss, and pulled out a pass. Wilson immediately opted to shoot in traffic, and Indy easily deflected the ball to seal the win.
To be precise, the most interesting play came on what was almost a game offense: Sutton’s catch from 51 yards, which he had to clear off his own teammate. Wilson struggled in the field against Indy, but Sutton showed focus and an elite hand to help his QB in the third quarter, also overcoming rookie partner Montrell Washington to secure the game. Too bad it happened through a loss.