INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NFL's version of "Shark Week" finished with a twist few saw coming.
You couldn't turn on a TV last week without seeing Peyton Manning and hearing somebody or the other guarantee how he was going to return to Indianapolis and mercilessly shred the Colts. The only thing missing from most of the clips was the soundtrack from "Jaws" playing in the background.
Instead of being the predator, though, for once Manning wound up as the prey.
"I am kind of relieved in some ways that this game is over," he said at the end of a long night.
It wasn't just that the Colts halted Denver's unbeaten start this season at six games — and 17 straight during the regular season — with a 39-33 defeat. Or the uncharacteristic four turnovers by the Broncos, or even the undisciplined meltdowns that led to a dozen penalties for 103 yards.
Or the way Manning's former employers threw a pregame ceremony to honor the player who brought the city a Super Bowl and more, then unleashed a hungry defense that unceremoniously knocked him on his keister four times — and hurried the quarterback on 10 other occasions. It wasn't even being outplayed by Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck — 13 years his junior — in front of the very same crowd that Manning once owned.
Manning couldn't put his finger on exactly why he and the Broncos seemed out of sorts, and he wasn't about to lean on alibis. So we'll attempt it for him.
He was playing in front of a makeshift offensive line; both of the Broncos' regular tackles are out injured, and they couldn't have picked a worse game to miss.
Not only do some of Manning's former teammates know how and where he likes to make plays; some of them, like close pal and Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis, practiced against him for eight straight seasons without being allowed to so much as touch him. Needless to say, Mathis had a few scores to settle.
Unfettered for just one night, the five-time Pro Bowler showed Chris Clark — filling in at left tackle — about as much respect as a traffic pylon. He wound up going over, around and on occasion right through Clark to pick up two sacks and a handful of stops.
"If you're not on top of the minute things, he's going to make plays," Mathis said about Manning. "We know what he can do."
And now, for all the things he already knew about Mathis, Manning can tell you exactly how hard he hits. Early in the second quarter, Mathis zoomed past Clark and smashed into Manning from the blind side, forcing a fumble that skidded out of the end zone for a safety.