Marshall, BrandonIt looked like it was going to be a classic blowout for the Denver Broncos yesterday, who played the undefeated Indianapolis Colts, especially after the Colts opened up a 21-0 first-half lead. Every rational fan had to acknowledge the Broncos were facing an uphill battle heading into the game (the last four losses to Indy were each by roughly 28 points).

Denver was able to claw its way back into the game with stout defense but ultimately came up on the wrong end of a 28-16 loss.

Being down so big so early, the Broncos were forced to throw the ball often, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall hauled in an NFL-record 21 catches, breaking the previous record of 20, which had been set by Terrell Owens, notes The Denver Post (free registration required). Marshall (right) says he’d give back a few of the catches in exchange for a victory, but he can’t.

The Broncos are now 8-5 and two games behind the division-leading San Diego Chargers. Sports Illustrated writes that the loss featured some frustrating missed opportunities but changes nothing about the Broncos’ chances of making the playoffs.

The Broncos have three regular-season games left, two of which are home games, one against the woeful Oakland Raiders and the other facing the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos should be able to handle both teams, which would give Denver 10 wins for the year. The third game is against the Philadelphia Eagles, and that one will be tough. The Eagles are capable of putting up huge numbers, as they did last night against the New York Giants in a 45-38 shutout in New York (via The Washington Post).