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(Sunday, December 13th)
Final Score: Indianapolis 28, Denver 16
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes to lead the Colts to a NFL record 22nd consecutive regular-season victory, 28-16, over Denver.
The Colts (13-0) are also just the seventh team to start a season by winning their first 13 games -- joined this year by New Orleans, which squeaked out a 26-23 win over Atlanta Sunday to stay undefeated.
Indianapolis eclipsed the old mark of 21 straight wins by New England, set from 2006-08, but not without some tense moments in the second half.
The Colts were also able to surpass the San Francisco 49ers' NFL record for wins in a decade with their 114th since the start of 2000. The 49ers had 113 wins in the 1990s.
"When you can go 22 straight in this league -- that's an accomplishment, that's difficult to do. When you look at the 114 victories in a decade, that's a lot of wins and a lot of guys took part in that. You have to look at our ownership and what kind of job Jim Irsay has done," said first-year head coach Jim Caldwell, who continues to further his own accomplishments having yet to lose a game in his short NFL coaching career.
Manning led three efficient scoring drives in the first half to build up a 21-0 lead and rallied the Colts late in the fourth for a touchdown to make sure the Broncos didn't pull off the comeback and spoil the record.
Completing under 50 percent of his passes for only the seventh time in 189 career games, Manning threw two picks in the second half to help allow Denver to close to within 21-16 in the fourth quarter.
However, taking the ball at his own 20 with 9:44 left to play, Manning directed an epic 14-play, 80-yard drive that left only 2:25 on the clock. The drive ended with a one-yard TD pass to Dallas Clark, who caught a career-high three scores.
Manning ended 20-of-42 for 220 yards and also tossed a touchdown to Austin Collie. He had three interceptions overall. Manning also passed Warren Moon for fourth place on the NFL's all-time list for career passing yards. He now has 49,533 yards.
The Colts now have little left to do with their regular season except stay healthy. The team had already clinched the AFC South and on Sunday locked up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs by taking the AFC's top seed.
"At the end when we needed it and had to get that thing in the end zone, the offense came up with a 14-play drive that was key," Caldwell said.
Brandon Marshall set an NFL record with 21 receptions in a single game, gaining 200 yards and scoring twice on throws from Kyle Orton.
Denver's quarterback rallied the troops late with three-second half scoring drives, finishing 29-of-41 for 277 yards with the two TDs and an interception.
Marshall passed Terrell Owens' record of 20 catches achieved on December 17, 2000 while with San Francisco.
The Broncos (8-5) had followed up a four-game losing streak by defeating the Giants and Chiefs by a combined score of 70-19 in the previous two weeks. They still hold the AFC's top spot for a wild card berth and are two games back of San Diego for first place in the AFC West.
"They've (the Colts) certainly set the bar here in the AFC and we found out why. When you play 60 minutes and make as many mistakes as we made today, it's going to be difficult to beat a really talented football team that plays well under pressure and is extremely well coached," Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels said. "They forced us into a lot of mistakes in situations that ultimately cost us the game."
Indianapolis found the end zone on three of its first four drives to take a seemingly comfortable 21-0 lead. Manning was on target early, completing 8- of-10 passes on the game's opening drive and hitting Collie on a six-yard touchdown to cap an 80-yard trek.
After a quick three-and-out from Denver, Indy took it 56 yards in seven plays and Manning connected with Clark for a 10-yard score. A short time into the second quarter, Manning engineered an 11-play, 71-yard series and found Clark on a one-yard scoring toss with just under eight minutes left in the half.
Denver responded with its first scoring odyssey -- a 12-play, 80-yard set that ended in Marshall and Orton's five-yard TD connection for a 21-7 game at halftime.
The second half opened with a series of punts, and Manning was intercepted deep in Colts territory on the hosts' second turn with the ball. The Broncos took over at the Indy 37 and drove to the 20 before Orton was picked off by Tim Jennings at the one-yard line.
The Colts, though, went three-and-out and gave Denver the ball back with good field position. However, the drive stalled at the 24-yard line and Matt Prater hung a 42-yard kick out to the right.
Manning was picked for a third time on the very next play from scrimmage and Denver capitalized only 10 seconds into the fourth quarter on a 28-yard boot by Prater.
The Colts offense continued to sputter and turned it back over to the Broncos in short order, The resulting Denver drive made it a one-score game as Orton capped a 68-yard drive with a five-yard scoring strike to Marshall. The two- point conversion run failed, leaving the score 21-16 with just under 10 minutes to play.
Denver was left with one final series after Manning's back-breaking drive to push the lead to 12. Orton was sacked on 3rd-and-10 and a fourth-down toss to Marshall -- breaking the NFL record for catches in a game -- came up short of a first down. Manning kneeled to burn the remaining 1:51 from the clock.
The 2005 Colts were one of the seven teams to have started a season 13-0. They finished the year 14-2...Indianapolis also captured its 13th consecutive home win, besting the franchise mark set from 2005-07...Clark finished with five receptions for 43 yards. He surpassed his own team record for catches by a tight end this season with 82. Clark had 77 grabs year...Collie made three grabs for 39 yards...Indy's Joseph Addai led the ground game with 67 yards on 16 carries -- also totaling 49 yards on five catches. Reggie Wayne ended with four catches for 43 yards in the win...Denver's ground game was led by rookie Knowshon Moreno, who ran it 23 times for 63 yards...The Broncos wound up outgaining Indy 357-312.
12/13 19:21:40 ET
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