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Andrew Luck leads Colts to AFC Championship at Manning's expense

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It seemed only fitting that as Andrew Luck took another step towards quarterback elite status he had done so on the same field that predecessor Peyton Manning was eliminated from the play-offs with something of a whimper.

Going almost untouched all afternoon, Luck threw two touchdowns and a total of 265 yards and outplayed Peyton Manning as the Colts ended the Broncos 8-0 home record with a 24-13 win.

The win sets up the Indy QB’s first taste of AFC Championship action as the Colts (13-5) now travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots (13-4) for a shot at Super Bowl XLIX next week.

Best of luck

"I'd like to think I am a better quarterback and would like to think we're a better team now,” Luck said. "We are well equipped to handle the unknown, the unforeseen."

"I think we're playing good team ball," he continued. "We're feeding off each other. Offensively we're making enough plays to put some points on the board. Great night. So proud to be a part of the Colts in this victory."

On the offensive

And Luck was right to pay tribute to his teammates. He owes much of his success on Sunday night to an offensive line that has struggled at times in the regular season but stood up to the plate when needed as Luck went untouched in Denver.

But Reitz, Castonzo, Harrison and co. also made plenty of holes in Denver’s defence to allow Dan Herron to run for 63 yards and score his first touchdown of the 2014 season.

But the Broncos did not enjoy similar fortunes on the offensive side of the ball as Manning and his receivers failed to click or gain any momentum all game.

Peyton-ly struggling

Apart from an early touchdown caught by Demaryius Thomas, Manning struggled to complete passes consistently and finished the game on 26/46.

Sacked and picked twice, both at crucial stages, Manning resorted to handing the ball off to C.J. Anderson after he threw six straight incompletions.

The Broncos did make some good progress on the ground as Anderson rushed for 80 yards but as a team built around throwing the ball they were unable to make it count.

Will Manning return?

And as Manning was booed by Denver fans, the 38-year-old seemed a lot less confident over his future than he was before Christmas.

When asked if he would be returning for an 18th season he replied with "Uh, yeah, I guess I just can't give that simple answer, I'm processing it. So, I can't say that. I could not say that."

And yet another wretching post-season defeat for the Broncos will put doubts over the future of head coach John Fox. "I'm the head coach, the buck stops here," Fox said.

Cowboys pack it in

Elsewhere on Sunday controversy was once again a big part of the Dallas Cowboys as the Green Bay Packers were the beneficiaries of the decision to rule Dez Bryant's impressive fourth down 28 yard catch incomplete.

Had the decision stood the Cowboys, who trailed by five, would have had a 1st down on the 2-yard line with minutes to spare.

But it was not to be for Dallas as the incompletion turned possession to Green Bay who were able to see out the 26-21 victory.

Rodgers on the move

It was a game that Aaron Rodgers was not expected to be 100% for and despite his obvious lack of mobility he was able to pull several strings from the safety of his pocket.

Passing for 316 yards, he threw three touchdowns as the Packers overcame a half-time deficit of three.

Their victory in the second instalment of the ‘Ice Bowl’ sets up a repeat of the Week One match-up with the Seahawks but with the raised stakes of a trip to Arizona on the line.

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Peyton Manning
Green Bay Packers
Tony Romo
Denver Broncos
Dallas Cowboys
Andrew Luck
Indianapolis Colts

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