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DENVER – Peyton Manning connected with tight end Julius Thomas for three touchdowns, and the Denver Broncos led the Indianapolis Colts 24-10 after the third quarter Sunday night.
Manning found his big target for scoring strikes of 3, 35 and 5 yards — all in the second quarter.
Should Manning beat his former team, the five-time MVP would join Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks to earn a win over each of the current 32 NFL franchises.
Denver's revamped defense came up with two big stops deep in their territory during a third quarter dominated by Indy. On fourth down at the 1, linebacker Brandon Marshall stuffed Andrew Luck's run up the middle.
Later, when the Colts had a first down inside the 5, the Broncos held them to Adam Vinatieri's 25-yard field goal.
Manning was in sync with his newest target, Emmanuel Sanders, who caught five passes for 68 yards, and with a familiar one, Julius Thomas (six catches for 94 yards). Thomas had 12 TDs last season, the most by a tight end in team history.
Another offseason acquisition, Aqib Talib, tipped a pass that was intercepted by Rahim Moore, giving the Broncos excellent field position. Thomas capped off the drive with a short TD catch.
The Colts were without starting center Khaled Holmes and backup tackle Joe Reitz, both with ankle injuries. Luck was under constant pressure and sacked three times.
Luck guided Indy on a scoring drive, scrambling 9 yards for a touchdown with 19 seconds left in the first half.
The Colts have won six straight over Denver, including Manning's homecoming game last October at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Brandon McManus had a 21-yard field goal in the first quarter. He was picked up by Denver with Matt Prater serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Reggie Wayne had a 22-yard catch on the first play of the game. He has a reception in 191 regular-season games, moving him past Marvin Harrison for most in Colts history.
Manning is coming off a season in which he set records for most TD passes (55), yards passing (5,477) and passing first downs (289). But the number he no doubt remembers the most is 43-8 — the score of the Super Bowl loss to Seattle.
In this game, Manning didn't appear to miss receiver Wes Welker, who is banned from the Broncos' facilities for a month for violating the NFL's performance enhancing drug policy.
Golfer Rory McIlroy was on the Denver sideline hours after tying for eighth at the BMW Championship held just down the road from Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
McIlroy acted like a fan, too, taking out his phone to capture Manning running out onto the field in pregame introductions.
Fellow golfer Bubba Watson also was at the game. He even ran out to get the tee after a kickoff.
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