The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Sports

October 23, 2013

Colts establishing 'No Fly Zone'

INDIANAPOLIS — The respected evaluation website Pro Football Focus gave Colts cornerback Vontae Davis a +7.9 grade for his work Sunday night, the highest score ever awarded to a defensive back facing Peyton Manning.

But that's about the only number from Indianapolis' 39-33 victory against the previously unbeaten Denver Broncos that adds up.

The Colts allowed 429 yards of total offense, and Manning threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns. Of the Broncos' 23 first downs, 19 came through the air. Denver's top receivers — Demaryius Thomas (four catches for 82 yards), Wes Welker (7-96) and Eric Decker (8-150) — each had big statistical nights.

But it's what's not in the numbers that counts.

The Broncos' point total was 11 fewer than its season average. Welker was held without a touchdown for the first time in seven games since signing with Denver. And the league's most potent offense never found the sort of rhythm that had marked its fast and furious start.

Indianapolis prides itself on winning as a team, and no one unit can claim responsibility for Sunday's epic upset.

Manning never was the same after a hard hit from the blindside by Robert Mathis on a second-quarter sack that resulted in a safety. And the front seven played an outstanding game with four sacks and an interception by inside linebacker Pat Angerer to its credit.

But it was the secondary — self nicknamed as the "No Fly Zone" — that raised the most eyebrows. The Colts' defensive backs got physical with Denver's receivers throughout the game, bumping them off their intended routes and wreaking havoc with Manning's beloved timing.

The secondary especially lived up to its colorful moniker over the middle, where it severely slowed the quick passing game that is the staple of the Broncos' attack.

"If you force (Manning) to make outside throws, it's tougher and it gives us a little more time to adjust and play that ball," nickelback Darius Butler said. "I would probably say that's probably the philosophy for a lot of defensive players, to make them beat you outside rather than inside."

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