When the Broncos win, the Mile High Report staff gives out Game Balls... when they don't, well, we cry ourselves to sleep at night (in the preseason, we cry pre-tears). And we highlight both the good and the bad in our Highlights and Lowlights.
Needless to say, we're hoping this Highlights and Lowlights is a rare feature on MHR.
A Highlight/Lowlight can be anything - not necessarily a player. It can be a play, a decision, an injury. We'll run through the good first, then the bad, and I'll offer a Silver Lining to not end on a negative note. Alright you older, maybe-wiser staff members: Broncos 17, Texans 18: Who ya got?!
The returns of Von Miller, Montee Ball and Kevin Vickerson
All three of these guys figure to play important roles to the Broncos this year. Ball showed no ill effects from his appendectomy, and Von Miller should be getting more praise for his impressive return from a torn ACL. Big Vick will add some size and power to our defensive line, and figures to be apart of a solid rotation at defensive tackle for the Broncos this season. Getting all these guys some work before their week one game was huge. Also adding in that cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is expected to be fully cleared this week is the cherry on top for me. - Scotty Payne
Pretend you didn't watch the game. A receiver finished the first half with five receptions for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Who is it? Emmanuel Sanders would not likely be your first guess.
I'm not going to lie-Emmanuel Sanders' situation did not look promising. Injuries and drops kept creeping up wherever his name was mentioned in training camp. A lot of the younger guys were licking their chops, hoping for a chance to shine. This game was a great opportunity for Sanders to showcase why he was brought in to start.
What impressed me the most was his flat out speed. Sanders was untouched on his 67-yard catch and run TD. If you don't jam him at the line, you're going to have a bad day. The speed he brings to the offense will make it dangerous to leave him in one-on-one coverage. I for one, am excited for this new dimension to the already potent offense. - Mr. East
Bradley Roby finally showed Broncos fans why he was drafted No. 1. The rookie corner had a great night against the Houston Texans, co-leading the team with four tackles and showing he can run with the big dogs by getting in the way of the Texans' receivers. All that time in practice going against Peyton Manning and all-pro receivers, plus some tips from Pro- Bowl cornerback Rod Woodson, is paying off as Roby is getting more comfortable with the size and speed of NFL receivers and showing his athleticism is something to be reckoned with.
And when you get complimented by DeMarcus Ware, you know you are doing something right. "I like how he plays the game, and how he has really increased his play from coming in as a rookie until now," Ware said. "It's been really good how focused he is." Matched up against Texans' Andre Johnson all night, Roby allowed only two of six catches, broke up two plays, including a key 3rd down in the second quarter. He was definitely focused Saturday. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
— Laurie Volkmann (@docllv) August 24, 2014
Ronnie Hillman, after Montee Ball saw touches on eight plays, it was Hillman who stood out against the Texans first string defense. Hillman finished with a pedestrian 3.0 something average after some garbage carries, but broke an impressive 11 yard scamper.
Perhaps the issue with Hillman is fans expectations for him to turn into the next Darren Sproles, when in his third year he may just be the next Ronnie Hillman. In his third year with the Broncos he is four months older than Kapri Bibbs and four months younger than Juwan Thompson. - Ian Henson
We've covered Manning's taunt from every angle, but it was too much of a highlight not to mention here. Peyton Manning is known for calculated planning, precision throws, and a cool head. He gets my "game highlight" for not keeping a cool head - though it was definitely calculated - when he got a 15-yard taunting flag for getting in the face of DJ Swearinger for the safety's blow to Wes Welker, which knocked the receiver out of the game with a concussion. And in true Manning style, even the timing of that flag was calculated - after the touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders (which was a couple plays after the hit) and with only 5 seconds to go in the half. As Manning said later, "if you're going to get one, that's a good time to get one, right?" he said. "It can't hurt you that much." - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
This would have been a really good time for Mitch Ewald to come on strong, but unfortunately for the rookie, his 36 yard attempt sailed wide left. He wasn't the only foot-focused football player to struggle on Saturday though: Matt Prater had a miss and had his first successful attempt nearly blocked by J.J. Watt. Britton Colquitt muffed a first quarter punt that led to seven Texans points. When you lose by one, and you can contribute six points directly and seven more indirectly to Broncos kickers.. well, you're high-paid for a reason. Start earning your paycheck. - Monty
QB Brock Osweiler
After two really good preseason outings, Brock made the horrible mistake of throwing back against his body into triple coverage for a Texan Interception. The bad decisions that he had avoided for the most part to this point seemed to plague him against the Texans. He was surprised by some blitz calls and didn't look as poised in both identifying reads presnap and hitting his hot receivers. His ball placement also looked a bit off as several receivers had issues hanging onto balls on the final drive. Overall, this is a game that will leave a bad taste in Brock's mouth as he disappears to oblivion back on the Broncos bench. - Bronco Mike
The Silver Lining
It's preseason; who cares about the score? We care about the way the Broncos players performed. Peyton Manning and company were able to right the ship before halftime, and while Brock's second unit laying an egg is a concern, I was more frustrated with Brock's blockers and receivers than his accuracy or decision-making (aside from one very-errant throw). These Broncos still look like world-beaters, and one late preseason "collapse" doesn't change anything but the way the depth chart will sort itself out.
Oh, and Emmanuel Sanders. Emmanuel Sanders. Emmanuel Sanders.
What were your highlights and lowlights from Saturday? Got a better suggestion for the name of this column (not that it will ever again be needed)? Hit us up in the comments!
Update: This article first published missing two Highlights from the staff, Hillman and Manning. I fixed that and started a new poll.