(Reuters) - Peyton Manning gained revenge against his former team and put his recent Super Bowl nightmare behind him by leading the Denver Broncos to a season-opening 31-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Manning tossed three touchdowns, all to tight end Julius Thomas, in the second quarter as Denver grabbed a 24-0 advantage and held on when the Colts made a final push in the fourth.
“It’s a good start, it’s good to be 1-0,” Manning told reporters. “(We) never take winning for granted. It’s a different year – the season opener. We were excited.”
Manning had lost his previous matchup last season with Indianapolis, where he enjoyed a prolific tenure for more than a decade, and was also coming off a disastrous 43-8 Super Bowl defeat at the hands of Seattle back in February.
But in his first chance at redemption for the 2014 season, the 38-year-old threw for 269 yards in his home matchup with Andrew Luck, the quarterback who replaced him in Indianapolis.
The third-year Luck tossed for 370 yards, two touchdowns with two interceptions, and put a scare into the Broncos with a late comeback.
Luck ran for a nine-yard score to cut the lead to 24-7 just before halftime.
After a Colts field goal and a fourth-quarter Denver score that made it 31-10, Luck struck on a 41-yard pass to Dwayne Allen and again with a nine-yard TD pass to Hakeem Nicks that pulled the visitors within seven.
The Colts’ final drive stalled at Denver’s 39-yard-line when Luck’s fourth down pass fell incomplete.
“Not taking advantage (of opportunities) put our defense in a tough position,” Luck said. “That’s as much the offense’s fault for not putting drives together. A lot of mistakes were made.”
The Broncos are coming off a record-setting campaign in which they set a new mark for points scored in one season, among other offensive milestones.
Even without receiver Wes Welker, serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy, they showed flashes of their potent pace.
Second-year running back Montee Ball rushed for 67 yards and one touchdown as he has taken over the role of lead back for Denver this year.
Thomas had the banner day with his trio of scores and 104 yards receiving.
On the losing side, Indianapolis’ veteran receiver Reggie Wayne had nine catches for 98 yards. The 35-year-old missed nine games due to a ligament injury last season.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Patrick Johnston/Sudipto Ganguly