INDIANAPOLIS -- What a rush of colors and emotions.
When the Broncos lost after their bye week, they had no idea the rabbit hole they had plunged into. They have become acquainted with misery, mystery and gallows humor.
Thursday became a microcosm of a mind-numbing season. Trevor Siemian wrecked his left shoulder, prompting speculation he has thrown his last pass as a Bronco. And Brock Osweiler completed his journey from third-stringer to starter to reliever, looking like a human creamsicle with a touchdown run and an inspired passing effort.
Lost in the retina-burning orange uniforms, smurf-dressed opponents, red faces and purple bruises, the Broncos won. On the road. This season.
The result: Broncos 25, Colts 13.
The headline: Brock of Ages. Brockwork Orange.
"It was like backyard football out there," Osweiler told Denver7 as the locker room emptied. "This means a lot. These are my guys. We are never going to quit. This was a lot of fun."
In case you are just joining the program, the Broncos continue to show why landing a starting quarterback remains their top offseason priority. But Osweiler, if nothing else, made a compelling case to stick around as a capable backup. He rallied the Broncos from a second-half deficit with a perfect third-quarter performance — 4-for-4, 100 yards — that produced Denver's second victory in five days after a 70-day drought.
General manager John Elway, told of Osweiler's third period, admitted he was impressed. He has shown patience with first-year coach Vance Joseph, and been rewarded as the team has delivered back-to-back wins for the first time since September. As such, a forgettable year will not be remembered for landing on the wrong side of the history. The Broncos avoided becoming the franchise's third team to go winless in visiting stadiums.
"We didn't want that. Guys have been working hard. Nobody was ever going to give up in this locker room," nose tackle Domata Peko told Denver7. "And man, give up for the offense. Brock came in there tonight and was unbelievable."
In the first quarter, Osweiler was watching with his ball cap on, charting plays. He had run only two of of new coordinator Bill Musgraves run plays in practice, relegated to backup duty and scout team. Three hours later, he deserved credit for rallying the Broncos from a 13-7 deficit with touchdown connections to receiver Cody Latimer (22 yards) and tight end Jeff Heuerman (54 yards, representing the Broncos' biggest play of the season).
"That touchdown pass I could have caught with my teeth. No really. It was a perfect pass," Heuerman said. "I was just happy I didn't trip over my feet."
The question of quarterback never drifts far from the conversation because the play continues to traffic in misery, and now, injury. Before leaving by cart in the first quarter with a sprained left shoulder, Siemian threw Ragu on the play script with one of his worst interceptions (This demands pause given he ranks second in the NFL in picks and has thrown 10 on the road).
With his initial read foggy, Siemian appeared confused. He fired into triple coverage. Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II notched his first career interception as one of multiple players bracketing Demaryius Thomas. The Colts, as opponents are wont to do against Denver after turnovers, marched 50 yards, culminated by quarterback Jacoby Brissett jogging into the end zone for a 7-0 first quarter lead.
The Broncos' second drive showed hope and ended with a hurt quarterback and another special teams Benny Hill routine. On third down in the red zone, linebacker Barkevious Mingo continued to give Garett Bolles fits, racing around the corner and crushing Siemian. Siemian landed awkwardly with his left elbow jamming it onto the turf and dislocating his shoulder. He exited on the cart, his season over. Siemian, who was in serious pain, has suffered four shoulder injuries over the past two seasons (three on his left, one on his right), and underwent elective surgery to fix a left AC joint problem 11 months ago).
"I don't think it's the same thing. We will know more after the MRI," Siemian said. "At least it wasn't my right arm. But give Brock credit. He did a great job."
After a delay of game penalty on the field goal unit, Brandon McManus failed on his eighth field goal after missing 10 in the previous two seasons combined.
Like Siemian and Paxton Lynch, Osweiler has filled every role from starter to reliever to inactive this season. He delivered in a way that inspired teammates. He yelled, he encouraged, he dived.
"He brings passion. He loves the game," center Matt Paradis said. "Guys feed off his energy."
Osweiler's gallop and gravity-defying jump into the end zone helped soothe the negation of Devontae Booker's touchdown leap over Clayton Geathers that was erased by Garett Bolles' holding penalty (he leads the league).
The Colts responded with a field goal on their opening second half drive. Then Brock of Ages took over. He showed poise, while taking chances. Not only did he find Latimer and Heuerman for critical scores, he managed the game as the Broncos salted away the victory on the ground. Denver's final field goal came on a 16-play drive, spanning 9:40 seconds. C.J. Anderson finished with season-highs in yards (158) and carries (34) as he bulls his way toward 1,000.
"It's all about taking advantage of opportunities," Anderson said.
Watching the Colts dissolve, it is fair to say they are inept. But the Broncos had not won against anyone outside of Denver. While Vance Joseph all but assured his return with last week's win over the Jets, this cemented the notion.
The Broncos lost a quarterback in Siemian and rediscovered Osweiler.
The win does not change the standings. But it means this team will not go down in history for all the wrong reasons.
"He played great with great poise," Joseph said. "No one blinked. That's a good sign. Why panic. Just keep playing."
Moments after Siemian exited, silence enveloped Lucas Oil Stadium. Tight end Brandon Williams, who had spinal issues that prevented him from playing in college, left on a stretcher with a head injury. According to the Colts, Williams had movement in his limbs, and he was strapped down to the cart as a precaution. ... Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) left in the fourth quarter and did not return. But he did jog off the field, a good sign as he attempts to play against Washington.