DENVER – Matt Ryan kept the faith through all the sacks, interceptions, fumbles and three-and-outs that made for a streaming snooze-fest Thursday night.
“It was just kind of a slog of a game,” the Indianapolis quarterback said after Stephon Gilmore batted away Russell Wilson’s pass to Courtland Sutton in the end zone on fourth-and-1 from the 5 to give the Colts a 12-9 overtime victory over the Denver Broncos.
The game featured seven field goals, a dozen punts, 25 third-down stops, four interceptions and six fumbles — none of which were recovered by the otherwise disruptive defenses.
“Our defense played lights out,” said Ryan, who emerged victorious despite getting sacked six times, giving him 21 so far this season, throwing a pair of interceptions to Caden Sterns and fumbling for the 10th time this season.
“We need to play better for sure, but I'm proud of the guys,” Ryan said. “Wins are what we need. We're right in the mix. ... I thought the two drives at the end showed a lot of guys. You just keep battling — and it helps when your defense is shutting them down, too.”
Gilmore also intercepted Wilson's pass just before the 2-minute mark of the fourth quarter to set up Chase McLaughlin's tying field goal with 5 seconds left.
“That’s the definition of a big-time player making big plays in the moment," Colts coach Frank Reich said about Gilmore. "Isn’t it awesome you can have a game like that and still win?"
McLauglin connected from 47 yards 4:10 into overtime to give the Colts (2-2-1) the lead in the first game in NFL history that pitted quarterbacks with at least four Pro Bowl appearances each yet featured zero touchdowns.
The Broncos (2-3) decided against a tying chip-shot field goal by Brandon McManus or even a first-down play on fourth-and-less-and-a-yard from the 5, and Wilson lined up in the shotgun next to running back Melvin Gordon, then threw incomplete over the middle.
“We wanted to win the game,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “We hadn't moved the ball very well the whole night and I thought we had a spectacular drive to get all the way down there.”
Wide open and uncovered — but unseen by Wilson — was KJ Hamler, who tore off his helmet and slammed it to the ground after Wilson's final pass was batted away, sending the Broncos and their awful offense to their second loss in four days.
“There's going to be a bunch of what-ifs,” Broncos guard Dalton Risner said. “You know what, if we score that touchdown, everyone thinks it's the best call in the world.”
McLaughlin sent it to overtime with a 31-yarder after Gilmore intercepted Wilson's pass to Tyrie Cleveland in the end zone on third-and-4 from the 13.
“Just can't throw that,” lamented Wilson. "Got to throw it out of bounds if it's not there.”
Wilson was sacked four times and picked off twice. His four TD throws through five games marks the worst start of his 11-year career and he hasn't looked anything like the Broncos expected after giving him a $245 million contract extension before his first snap for Denver.
“It's very simple: at the end of the day I got to be better," Wilson said. “I got to play better. I let the team down tonight. One thing I know about myself is I'm going to respond.”
The game pitted veteran quarterbacks struggling with their new teams. It looked like neither team practiced much during the week because neither team did as they worked in new running backs and key defensive replacements on a short work week.
And as is common on Thursday nights, there was a rash of injuries with the most serious to Indy’s Kwity Payne (leg) and Denver’s Garett Bolles (right knee), both of whom were carted off.
With reigning NFL champion Jonathan Taylor (ankle, toe) out for Indy and the Broncos lamenting the loss of Javonte Williams to a shredded right knee, the grind-it-out nature of the game was entirely expected.
The Colts came in averaging 14.3 points, the lowest in Ryan’s 16-year career, and the Broncos entered the night averaging 16.5 points, the worst in Wilson’s 11-year career.
Nyheim Hines got the start for Indy, but he went out with a head injury after his third snap when D.J. Jones knocked him down and Hines’ helmet bounced on the ground. He wobbled as he tried to leave the field on his own and had to be guided to the sideline, where he was evaluated for a concussion.
REVENGE OR REDEMPTION
Many fans were wondering if this game would be one of revenge — Phillip Lindsay returning to his hometown to beat the Broncos — or redemption — Gordon atoning for his big fumble Sunday that was returned 68 yards for a touchdown by the Raiders.
It turned out to be neither.
Lindsay ran for 40 yards on 11 carries ad Gordon had 54 yards on 15 carries, and he was flipped by safety Rodney McLoyd Jr. at the 6 on his way to the end zone when it appeared he had an open path to the winning touchdown.
While McLaughlin was good from 52, 51, 31 and 48 yards, Brandon McManus was good from 33, 44 and 45 yards but his 34-yard attempt was blocked by Grover Stewart in the third quarter.
Paye was injured on Rodney Thomas II’s 35-yard interception return. Starting C Ryan Kelly (hip) and WR Austin Dulin (foot) also got hurt.
The Broncos lost two starting defenders to knee injuries just before halftime, ILB Josey Jewell and CB Ronald Darby. DE Dre’Mont Jones (head) and LB Baron Browning (wrist) got hurt in the second half as did Bolles.
The Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Oct. 16, and the Broncos visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night, Oct. 17.