Luck bests Manning in Colts win over Broncos

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, left, throws as Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware pursues during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, left, throws as Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware pursues during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Andrew Luck displaced Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, and now he might have sent his predecessor into retirement, too.

Manning was murky about his future following Denver’s 24-13 loss to the Colts in the AFC divisional round Sunday, the Broncos’ first loss at home in 13 months.

After saying last month that he planned on coming back for an 18th season, the five-time MVP wasn’t so certain after his latest playoff fiasco.

“I guess I just can’t give that simple answer,” Manning said. “I’m processing it. So, I can’t say that.”

Luck, the top pick in the 2012 draft following Manning’s tearful divorce from the Colts, has Indy one win away from its first Super Bowl since 2009. And he’s not the least bit surprised the team has gone from 2-14 in 2011 to the cusp of a conference championship in three short years.

“I think there were high expectations,” Luck said. “I remember the first day I walked in the building. It’s a winning franchise, and it seems to be in the DNA of the Colts that you win.”

The Colts (13-5) visit New England (13-4) Sunday.

“It’s good for us to be here now, but there’s more work to do,” Luck said. “To come on the road against a very good team in this round of the playoffs and get a win, that’s huge and that’s awesome.”

This was the third time Denver’s season ended in ugly fashion since Manning switched teams in 2012.

While Manning ponders his future, GM John Elway might also be thinking about coach John Fox’s status. He’s won four straight AFC West crowns but keeps coming up short in what he calls the “real season.”

“I’m the head coach; the buck stops here,” Fox said.

Manning got off to another terrific start this season, but once Julius Thomas sprained an ankle and lost his mojo, the Broncos weren’t the same, either. Manning, bothered by a thigh injury, had just three TDs and six interceptions in December.

Yet, C.J. Anderson’s emergence gave the Broncos (12-5) confidence that they finally had the ingredients to avenge last year’s wrenching Super Bowl loss to Seattle. That grinding ground game didn’t show up Sunday. Neither did their star-studded defense that was unable to pressure Luck all afternoon.

Luck threw TD passes to Dwayne Allen and Hakeem Nicks and Daniel Herron ran for a score.

Manning, meanwhile, kept overthrowing Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas deep.

“You never see Peyton overthrow guys,” Colts defensive tackle Jean Francois said. “He usually puts the ball right on the numbers. And when he kept overthrowing it, we knew we had him.”

“The season’s over. It’s a huge disappointment,” said Sanders. “It’s sad because we definitely had the potential to be a Super Bowl-winning team.”

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