INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck finally reverted to his old form Sunday — and the Colts finally looked like the team everyone expected.
Luck threw for two touchdowns and set up Adam Vinatieri for the winning 55-yard field goal with 6:13 left, giving Indianapolis a 27-24 victory over previously unbeaten Denver to ruin Peyton Manning's homecoming.
"That's who we need to be, consistently," Luck said. "Probably a little bit of soul searching, trying to figure out what we want to be. The truth of the matter is we have the pieces, which is pretty darn obvious."
The Colts ended a three-game skid, won for the first time in six tries outside the horrible AFC South, and retained their division lead.
Manning fell 3 yards short of becoming the NFL's career passing leader — after his second interception and two late defensive penalties let Indy run the final six minutes off the clock.
Denver's quarterback heads into next week's game against Kansas City with 71,836 career yards; Brett Favre had 71,838.
But that was not the record Manning really wanted to break in a venue many credit him with helping build. He'll also have to wait to break Favre's career record for most career regular-season wins (186) by a quarterback after going 21 of 36 with 281 yards, two TDs and two interceptions.
"I've been in enough situations like that in my career where I've been able to focus on the task at hand — trying to win the football game," Manning said after perhaps his final game at Indy, where he played his first 14 seasons. "I kind of dealt with them (the emotions) a few years ago. I felt like this time coming back was just playing against a good football team."
The Colts were also a team that had been mired in turmoil.
Five days after Indy fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and gave playcalling duties to Rob Chudzinski, Manning's successor played like the best young quarterback in football.
"We really feel we've competed with the best football teams in the league — Denver, New England, Carolina," team owner Jim Irsay said. "We still feel we can go the places we dream of going."
Luck was 21-of-36 for 252 yards and led the Colts on two tie-breaking drives in the fourth quarter.
The first ended with an 8-yard touchdown to running back Ahmad Bradshaw that gave Indy a 24-17 lead. Then after Manning tied the score again a 1-yard TD pass to tight end Owen Daniels, Luck took the Colts back down the field and set up Vinatieri for his longest field goal since coming to Indy in 2006.
Luck could have made it three straight scoring series had he not taken a knee on the final play at Denver's 1-yard line.