(Reuters) - Andrew Luck passed for two touchdowns to the lead the Indianapolis Colts to a 24-13 playoff win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday to step out of the shadow of Peyton Manning and into the AFC title game against the New England Patriots.
Compared to Manning from the moment the Colts selected him with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Luck quieted the debate as he outdueled the five-time National Football League most valuable player in front of a stunned crowd in the Mile High City.
Manning built a Hall of Fame career in Indianapolis, rewriting the quarterbacking record book and taking the Colts to a Super Bowl before moving onto Denver in 2012 when the Colts decided their future belonged with the young Luck.
Luck proved on Sunday the move was the right one, completing 27 passes for 265 yards including touchdowns to Dwayne Allen and Hakeem Nicks.
But he would not be drawn into renewing the debate over the two quarterbacks, refusing after the game to compare his performance to Manning’s in the divisional playoff and preferred to focus on the Colts own high expectations.
“I’m not going to compare,” Luck told reporters. “There are high expectations, I remember the first day I walked into the building, it is a winning franchise, it seems to be in the DNA of the Colts you got to win.
“It’s good for us to be here, now there is more work to do but there are definitely high expectations the moment any of us walk through that door.
Manning, trying to get his team back to the Super Bowl after they were humiliated last year by the Seattle Seahawks, tossed for one touchdown and walked off the field amid speculation about his future.
If there is one cloud hanging over the 38-year-old’s brilliant career it is that despite all the individual honors and awards, his Hall of Fame resume includes just one Super Bowl win in three trips to the championship game.
While Luck did not have an opinion on Manning’s performance, the Denver quarterback was more than ready to critique his effort.
“Not well, not good enough, didn’t play well enough,” said Manning. “I give them a lot of credit, their defense played well.
“I could have played better.”
The Broncos stormed out of the gate, Manning hitting Demaryius Thomas with a one-yard strike to turn their opening possession into a 7-0 lead.
But Indianapolis would answer with a pair of impressive drives, Daniel Herron diving over from the six to complete a 73- yard drive. The Colts then turned a Manning fumble near mid-field into another score with Luck finding Allen with a three- yard touchdown pass.
Connor Barth booted a 45-yard field goal before the end of the half to trim the Indianapolis lead to 14-10 but the Colts quickly regained control after the break as Luck connected with Nicks for a 15-yard touchdown.
The teams traded fourth-quarter field goals to close out the scoring.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Gene Cherry