Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

DENVER -- A few thoughts from the Denver Broncos' 24-13 loss Sunday to the Indianapolis Colts in Sports Authority Field at Mile High:

What it means: For the second time in the past three seasons, the Broncos lost a postseason home game and looked tight doing it. As a result, a season that began with the Broncos openly talking about their Super Bowl-or-bust mentality after a spending spree in free agency ended with the offense unable to find a rhythm and the revamped defense unable to get any kind of key stop.

Stock watch: He had plenty of obstacles in this one -- dropped passes, sketchy protection, too many defensive bobbles -- but it is quarterback Peyton Manning who again has people wondering whether he is healthy. Was it he simply couldn't get dialed in against the Colts? Or were his leg injuries worse than the Broncos are letting on? Manning could have easily run for a first down at one point in Sunday's game and elected not to. It's conjecture until he indicates otherwise, but that play points to the possibility he wasn't confident in how he felt.

Choices, choices: The Broncos decided early last week it would be cornerback Aqib Talib who would match up on Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Talib is a little taller, with a little more reach than Chris Harris Jr., so perhaps the Broncos were looking for Talib to present a more difficult target to throw over on deeper routes. But the Colts sought out the matchup as Hilton had catches of 20 and 23 yards on Indianapolis' first touchdown drive and had a key first-down conversion in the fourth quarter on an 18-yard catch. Talib was also flagged twice for holding in the first half.

Game ball: C.J. Anderson is the real find of the 2014 season. The second-year running back went from rotational guy to the kind of player who keeps the offense moving. His fourth-down run, for seven yards, was the Broncos' best play of the night, maybe of the season, at a time when they needed it. It was indicative that in a game in which the Broncos needed more from their big-name players, Anderson did more than his part. He had 66 yards rushing at halftime and 80 yards on 18 carries for the game.

What's next: The Broncos are left with the cold, empty feeling of a plan gone awry. They believed they were -- and at times played like -- they were a more well-rounded team than the one that got blown out by 35 points in Super Bowl XLVIII. They talked about the Super Bowl since summer, consistently embraced the confidence they were in the mix and served up big checks in free agency to do it. John Elway has shown he is not one to sit on his hands, and there is no question nobody in the team's employ will escape his gaze in the coming weeks.