DENVER -- It was Fan Appreciation Day at Invesco Field at Mile High yesterday and the Denver Broncos presented the 72,509 faithful in attendance with the best present of all -- a trip to the playoffs. On a chilly, overcast day in Denver, the Broncos gave their blue and orange mob reason to cheer, beating the Indianapolis Colts 33-14 to punch their ticket to the NFL's post-season soiree.
The victory was Denver's fifth in their last eight games as they advance to the playoffs looking to win their first Super Bowl since 1998, when they claimed their second straight behind the arm of legendary pivot John Elway.
"I think we have tremedous fans here ... they're some of the best in the league," said safety John Lynch, who made a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts fullback Dallas Clark early in the game.
"I wish we could play in front of them next week but that's not the case. It's an awesome deal in front of these people."
Jake Plummer had a terrific day for the Broncos, throwing for 247 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran in a third-quarter major which helped put the game out of reach for the Colts.
In the process, Plummer -- sporting a beard that makes him a good candidate to star in a Grizzly Adams remake -- broke Elway's record for passing yards in a season by a Denver quarterback, tossing 4,089 to break the old mark of 4,030.
With a division title already in their pocket, some notable Colts stars spent much of the game on the bench, as was expected.
Superstar quarterback Peyton Manning, who eclipsed Dan Marino's single-season TD mark earlier this year, finished the year with 49.
Manning took the first three snaps of the game yesterday, completing one of two passes for six yards before the Colts punted the ball away.
That was the end of the day for No. 18, who put on a jacket and headset and was replaced by backup pivot Jim Sorgi, who played the rest of the tilt.
Sorgi finished the day with 168 yards and two touchdowns. On his first series, it was Lucky 7s for Sorgi as he went seven of seven passing and capped it off with a seven-yead score to Marvin Harrison.
Indy running back Edgerrin James played only the first series as well, rushing once for a loss of two yards. Young wide receiving standout Brandon Stockley also spent the day on the sidelines.
The victory set up a rematch between the two clubs in the opening round of the playoffs next week in Indianapolis where the Broncos will obviously see a lot more of Manning, the early favourite for league MVP.
"I'm not sure what I got from the sidelines," Manning said.
"I'll let you know after the game next Sunday."
Denver got off to a quick start yesterday, when Plummer answered Sorgi's major with a touchdown strike of his own on the next possession, hooking up with Ashley Lelie on a 38-yard pass.
- - -
DENVER BRONCOS: 33
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: 14