Broncos Hang On to Beat Colts 31-24
After riding shotgun to Peyton Manning's high-octane offense all of last year, Denver's defense had the five-time MVP's back for once.
Rookie Bradley Roby broke up Andrew Luck's fourth-down pass to Reggie Wayne just after the 2-minute warning Sunday night, preserving Denver's 31-24 nail-biter over the Indianapolis Colts.
"We said we've got to make a play to win the game," Roby said. "We can't rely on the offense. It's on us."
The Broncos were clinging to the last wisps of what seemed like a safe 24-0 lead when the first-round draft pick from Ohio State sliced in front of Wayne to knock away Luck's pinpoint pass.
"I kind of felt like they were going to come at me, just being a rookie, going against their best receiver," Roby said. "He kind of got me off the line, but just thankfully, I was able to recover and make the play at the end."
On the sideline, Manning and tight end Julius Thomas, who hooked up for three first-half touchdowns, cheered.
"Thank goodness our defense came up with some big stops," said Manning.
He blamed the second-half sloppiness on opening night jitters.
GM John Elway spent more than $100 million on a defensive makeover in the offseason, trying to toughen up his team after its Super Bowl shellacking at the hands of Seattle. Then, he grabbed Roby in the first round of the draft. Add in several starters who were returning from injuries and Denver's defense spent all summer trying to develop a new, nasty identity.
Although Luck engineered four second-half scoring drives, the Broncos, who watched footage of the old "Orange Crush" defense during the week, had their moments.
Denver's defense came up with two big stops deep in its territory during a third quarter dominated by Indy. On fourth down at the 1, Marshall stuffed Luck's run up the middle. Then, when the Colts had a first down inside the 5, the Broncos held them to Adam Vinatieri's 25-yard field goal following DeMarcus Ware's third-down sack.
"It wasn't the best win, but guess what, it was a great opener," said DeMarcus Ware, who had 1 1/2 sacks in his Denver debut after franchise-high 117 in nine seasons in Dallas.
Brandon Marshall, filling in for Danny Trevathan (leg), led the team with nine tackles in his first NFL start, and Roby tied newcomer Aqib Talib with three pass breakups.
"At the end of the day, we made the right play at the right time," said Rahim Moore, who had a career-best two interceptions in his first game since undergoing emergency surgery on his left calf in November.
Other takeaways from Denver's win, which snapped a six-game skid against the Colts:
THOMAS' TRIO: Thomas beat a linebacker on each of his first two TDs, outmuscling one on a 3-yard crossing route and outracing another on a 35-yard TD. Then, he slipped inside the safety for his third score, which tied Shannon Sharpe's franchise record for TDs by a tight end in a game.
"Something I pride myself on is being ready for man coverage," Thomas said. "It's like backyard football with your little brother or cousins. I don't believe you should be covered 1-on-1."