What it means: The progression continues for quarterback Andrew Luck. A playoff appearance as a rookie. A second-round trip his second season. And now a trip to the AFC Championship Game for the third-year quarterback. While Luck will get most of the attention because he’s one of the NFL’s young stars, the Colts’ defense deserves a lot of the credit because they were torched by pocket-passing quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo during the regular season. The Colts returned the favor to Manning on Sunday. Manning continued to test the Colts’ secondary, and the Colts’ secondary continued to step up to the challenge and shut down the Broncos. The Colts held Manning to 26-of-46 passing for 211 yards and just one touchdown pass.
Stock watch: The Colts' offensive line gave up three sacks to the Broncos in their Week 1 loss. They kept Broncos pass-rush specialist DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller off Luck all game and did not give up a sack.
Newsome shines: In the first half, rookie Jonathan Newsome looked like another pass-rush specialist. Newsome came off the edge, blowing by the left tackle and recording a strip-sack of Manning. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman recovered the ball. Somewhere linebacker Robert Mathis, who missed the season because of a suspension and injury, was probably smiling because he’s the master of the strip sack. Newsome led the Colts with 6.5 sacks during the regular season.
Herron shines: Running back Daniel "Boom" Herron continues to be a passing and running threat for the Colts. He ran for 63 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and had eight catches for 32 yards.
Game ball: The entire Indianapolis defense gets this ball. They shut down Manning and Denver’s offense the entire game outside of a touchdown on the opening drive. They gave up only 288 yards of total offense to the Broncos.
What's next: The Colts advance to their first AFC Championship Game since 2009 to take on the New England Patriots at 6:40 p.m. ET Jan. 18. The Patriots beat the Colts 42-20 on Nov. 16.