The potential of a changing of the guard dominated the build-up as the young Colts playmaker Andrew Luck went into the clash at the home of his predecessor Peyton Manning with high hopes of causing an upset.
But, after securing a relatively straightforward 24-13 win against last season’s Super bowl runners-up, Luck can now prepare for a trip to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game while Manning may contemplate retirement with his 40th birthday around the corner and the revelation yesterday he played the final section of the season carrying a thigh injury. There were conflicting reports of the severity of the injury but there was no doubt what had been a strong season for Denver tapered off as the veteran quarterback’s effectiveness diminished.
Whether or not Manning returns for an 18th season will be a hot topic during the off-season but for the Colts, they can look forward to future success with the player who replaced him.
The Patriots will be favourites on Sunday but Luck will enter the game full of confidence. “I’d like to think I am a better quarterback and would like to think we’re a better team now,”, Luck said. “We are well equipped to handle the unknown, the unforeseen.”
Meanwhile the Dallas Cowboys were refusing to blame a controversial late call against their wide receiver Dez Bryant for their 26-21 defeat at the Green Bay Packers earlier on Sunday.
The Packers march on to face the Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, in the NFC decider on Sunday but it could have been so much different had a strict observation of the rules not gone their way late in a thrilling divisional play-off game.
“I thought (quarterback) Tony (Romo) made a great throw, Dez made a great catch on the ball,” Garrett said.
“Obviously it was ruled a catch at the outset… Dez reached out for the goal line like he’s done so many times. It’s a signature play for him. He maintained possession of it throughout, in my opinion. But, let me make it clear: This game wasn’t about the officiating. We had 60 minutes. We had an opportunity to come up here and win a football game, and at the end of the day we didn’t get that job done. That play was big in the game, but there were other plays in the game and unfortunately we didn’t do the things necessary to win the ball game.”