By Rich Kurtzman
For a second straight week, the Denver Broncos attempted to provide some Mile High magic and come from behind to win—again it was too little, too late.
After their first offensive snap, in which Elvis Dumervil sacked Texans’ QB Matt Schaub for a safety, Houston dominated the game early.
The Texans hit big passes downfield—they enjoyed six 20-plus yard plays to six different receivers—which led to three first half touchdowns and the 21-11 lead at break. Denver, led by Peyton Manning, could only manage those 11 points through three quarters and they looked up at a 20-point fourth quarter deficit.
The Broncos never quit, and they started hitting on all cylinders offensively and defensively in the fourth. Denver drove for two touchdowns—the first followed by a Ben Tate fumble—and brought it to a one-score game at 31-26 with three minutes on the clock.
The Denver D stopped Arian Foster on two runs and called their last two timeouts, setting up a pivotal third and five. Schaub hit Andre Johnson just out of Champ Bailey’s reach and the Texans basically sealed the win. The Broncos got another drive, but with only 20 seconds on the clock, there wasn’t enough time to score.
Schaub was spectacular all day long, he out-performed Manning and led his team to victory. Schaub ended the game with 290 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. His 17 yards per completion were sensational as he connected with receivers on huge plays all day.
The Texans’ offense was well-balanced in the game and Foster went over the century mark, with 105 yards, while Tate ran for 26 of his own. Together, the two running backs compliment each other well, with Foster’s smooth and fast charging mixed with Tate’s powerful, bruising carries between the tackles.
Manning played well, but not amazingly, completing only 50 percent of his season-high 52 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns. Denver attempted to bring a balanced attack early, but couldn’t run the rock, especially when starting tailback Willis McGahee was injured late.
Houston, touted as the league’s best defense this year, made the Broncos one-dimensional which limited their chances. On offense, the Texans kept the Broncos off balance, beating them deep multiple times after seeing on tape the deficiencies their safeties present.
Of course, the Denver D didn’t get much pressure on Schaub the entire game, sacking him only once. The Broncos barely ever blitzed and it allowed Schaub to pick them apart. The unit played valiantly to get stops to set up the two fourth quarter touchdowns, but when they had to force a turnover of downs at the very end, they couldn’t give Manning and the offense one more chance.
Overall, the Texans looked like one of the best teams in the NFL, without a noticeable weakness anywhere on their team.
They controlled the line of scrimmage, imposing their will by running the ball and the clock while consistently putting pressure on Manning and sacking him three times. J.J. Watt played phenomenally for Houston Sunday, powering through would-be blockers over and over again to blow up plays in the backfield and disrupt Denver’s offensive rhythm.
Denver couldn’t run the ball on the Texans; they couldn’t stop the run and the explosive plays downfield by Houston broke the Broncos’ back.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.