KUSA - September 26, 2010, was the last time the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos faced each other. It was a warm, sunny Mile High Sunday afternoon as Peyton Manning's Colts defeated the Broncos 27-13.
It was the last time Manning would be the starting quarterback in Denver for a team not named the Broncos. Manning tortured the Broncos for years, as Denver fans recall, including two beatdowns in the 2003 and 2004 playoffs. On that particular Sunday afternoon, Manning did it again by completing 27 of 43 passes for 325 yards and three touchdown passes.It was the beginning of the Broncos' miserable 2010 season. After this game, not many could have guessed Manning would return to Denver wearing a Broncos jersey. After that game, things changed dramatically for both teams.
GUEST COLUMN by Justin Hasty, member of the 9NEWS Broncos Social Team: http://on9news.tv/1gqOQiv.
This Sunday will mark Manning's first game in Indianapolis since he was cut by the Colts in 2012. After the 2010 season, Manning underwent several neck surgeries, which ended with parts of Manning's neck fused together. Manning missed the entire 2011 NFL season. A further result of his absence was the Indianapolis Colts falling apart and finishing the season at a shocking 2-14. This would put the Colts in an interesting predicament. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck entered the NFL draft for the 2012 NFL season. He was the most talented quarterback prospect since, well, Manning in 1998. He was also projected to be as talented as another famous Stanford quarterback in 1983 that Denver fans know awfully well. The Colts made the tough choice and cut Manning and drafted Luck. Luck would replace Manning as the new face of the Indianapolis Colts.
Meanwhile over in the Rocky Mountains, the Denver Broncos had fired Coach Josh McDaniels and replaced him with John Fox while hiring that certain Stanford quarterback, John Elway, as the Executive Vice-President before the 2011 season. Most Broncos fans recall Fox replacing quarterback Kyle Orton with Tim Tebow and the miracle playoff run, which saw Tebow propel the Broncos to several late season comeback victories and an AFC West Division crown. The Broncos then won an improbable playoff game against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers before falling to the New England Patriots in the divisional round.
This is where the Colts' big decision comes in. Manning was an unrestricted free agent. Elway wasted no time in recruiting Manning, as Denver was the first place Manning visited. After two weeks of careful deliberation, Manning called Elway to say he wanted to play for the Broncos. Tim Tebow was traded and Manning became the face of the team he had tortured for years as an Indianapolis Colt.
Both teams have managed to fare remarkably well since the big decision. Both teams made the playoffs and were bounced by the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos finished 13-3 in 2012 with their second AFC West crown in a row. This season, Manning has thrown for 2,179 yards with 22 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, as his Broncos are currently 6-0; one of two teams that are still undefeated. Meanwhile, Luck and the Colts made a surprising playoff run last year. This season, Luck and the Colts are off to a fast start as the Colts are 4-2. Luck has thrown for 1,346 yards with 7 touchdown passes and 3 interceptions.
It remains to be seen which team will fare better in the long run, but it is clear that both teams have fared better than expected so far. Manning has never played better than he has these last two seasons which is remarkable considering many people believed he was done playing football altogether after his neck injuries. The Broncos are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, a title they haven't earned since Elway was their QB. Luck has played better than most expected, even earning a playoff berth in his rookie campaign, which is a feat Manning wasn't able to accomplish. The Colts also look to make a deep playoff run as they have what looks to be the best team in the AFC South.
This Sunday will be a special game for NFL fans and especially fans in Indianapolis as their old star returns to town. Imagine if John Elway was released after an injury and playing for another team such as the Colts and coming to Denver to play against the Broncos. As a lifelong Broncos fan and huge Elway fan, it would have felt like the Twilight Zone to me, but this is what Indianapolis fans will be feeling once the football is kicked off.
For Broncos fans, it's still hard to imagine the chain of events after Peyton Manning played his final game as a Colt in Denver. Few could have ever imagined that both the Broncos and Colts would switch quarterbacks and team identities and become Super Bowl contenders in such a short time. Enjoy this Sunday, which could even be a preview of a possible AFC playoff game. Welcome to the Twilight Zone!
GUEST COLUMN by Justin Hasty:
Justin writes about sports on his blog, "The J-Man Sports Corner," http://jhasty88.blogspot.com/ where his profile says:
"Greetings I am the J-Man and you have reached the J-Man Sports Blog. I am a Denver native and resident and am passionate about sports. This space is a chance for readers to read the latest and greatest sports in both Denver and around the nation. Please feel free to comment, but please don't post anything vulgar or inappropriate. This is a space for all us fans to share and enjoy our passions for sports. Thank you!"
Justin is a member of the 9NEWS Broncos Social Team. You can learn about the the team and sign up here: http://on9news.tv/1gqOQiv. Team members have several perks, like this to write guest columns for 9NEWS.com.
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