Denver, CO (SportsNetwork.com) - Andrew Luck has dealt with the pressure of succeeding Peyton Manning for three years.
Now he knows what it feels like to beat the future Hall-of-Famer, as the Indianapolis Colts went into Denver on Sunday and shut down the Broncos' vaunted offense in a 24-13 upset to reach the AFC title game.
"All three phases fed off each other and did a heck of a job," Luck said. "To come on the road and get a win like this is huge."
Luck threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns and guided a game-sealing drive that took 8:14 off the clock in the fourth quarter to secure the franchise's first trip to the conference championship round since 2009.
The Colts' defense limited the Broncos to 288 yards -- 115 less than their season average -- and added another blemish to Manning's uneven postseason resume.
Manning fell to 11-13 in the playoffs with nine one-and-done exits and looked uncomfortable despite throwing a touchdown pass on Denver's opening possession. He barely completed half of his attempts (26-of-46) and threw for just 211 yards.
After the game, the 38-year-old Manning did not make any guarantees on his future and took responsibility for his poor play.
"I didn't play well enough. I give them a lot of credit, their defense played well," Manning said. "I thought I could have played better. I'm disappointed right now."
The Broncos won all eight of their home games in the regular season by an average of nearly 15 points per game, but they will be spectators next Sunday watching Luck and the Colts take on the Patriots in Foxborough.
New England crushed the Colts 42-20 in Week 11 in Indianapolis and ousted them in last year's divisional round by a similar 43-22 score. Luck is 0-3 in his career against the Patriots.
The reigning AFC champs trailed 14-10 at the break and went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the second half.
Luck sandwiched the fruitless drives with an 11-play, 72-yard scoring drive, twice completing passes on third down to move the chains, including a rainbow to tight end Coby Fleener between three defenders for a 32-yard gain on 3rd- and-16. Luck later moved up in the pocket and rifled a 15-yard strike to a well-covered Hakeem Nicks in the end zone for a 21-10 Colts lead.
It appeared Denver caught a break when Josh Cribbs was originally ruled to have muffed a punt, but replay reversed the call and determined he was down by contact before coughing it up.
The Colts wound up turning it over anyway, as Rahim Moore came down with an interception at the Denver 24-yard line. Cribbs' near fumble would have set the Broncos up at the Indianapolis 30.
C.J. Anderson gave Denver a much-needed first down when he broke two tackles behind the scrimmage on a tough 4th-and-1 run on the final play of the third quarter. The Broncos, though, settled for a 41-yard Connor Barth field goal.
Three consecutive incompletions by Luck gave the ball right back to Denver with 13:21 remaining, but Vontae Davis broke up a third-down pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders to force a punt.
That's when the Colts took to the ground, with Daniel Herron and Zurlon Tipton doing most of the work on a 13-play, 54-yard trek. Luck completed all three of his passes, and Adam Vinatieri connected from 30 yards out to make it a two- possession game with 4:06 on the clock.
Anderson was stopped inches short of the first down to force a turnover on downs with under three minutes to play, and the AFC South champs held on from there.
"It was a step that we needed to take," said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, whose team has advanced one round further each of the past three postseasons. "We still have a tomorrow."
Manning threw a pair of perfectly thrown balls on Denver's opening drive, first hitting Julius Thomas on an out-and-up for 32 yards, then finding Demaryius Thomas on a fade in the left corner of the end zone.
The rest of his first half, however, was filled with overthrows, several dropped passes and a costly turnover the Colts turned into seven points.
Manning was stripped-sacked near midfield by rookie Jonathan Newsome early in the second quarter, and Luck found Dwayne Allen in the end zone to put the Colts in front 14-7. The eight-play drive was kept alive when Broncos defensive back Aqib Talib was flagged for holding T.Y. Hilton in the end zone on a third-down incompletion.
Hilton's 23-yard catch set up Herron's 6-yard TD run earlier in the second.
The usually-reliable Vinatieri pushed a 44-yard field goal try wide right, and Denver got three points on the board via Barth's 45-yard kick just before halftime. Davis nearly intercepted Manning in the end zone prior to Barth's kick but only got one foot inbounds.
Nine of Manning's postseason wins, including Super Bowl XLI, came with the Colts ... Herron totaled 95 yards from scrimmage ...Anderson gained 80 yards on 18 carries ... The Colts are 3-0 against Denver in the postseason, the first two wins coming with Manning under center.