Better late than never, right Broncos Country?
It took a while for the Denver Broncos' offense to get rolling against the Houston Texans, but eventually they began firing on all cylinders en route to a 27-9 victory — notching them their fifth win of the season.
The Broncos' defense started tonight’s festivities off very strong, halting the Texans’ tenth ranked rushing attack and putting a lid on their aerial assault early by forcing consecutive three and outs on their first two series.
Unfortunately, Denver’s offense wasn’t able to take advantage of the tone the defense set early on and sputtered into obscurity, registering only ten plays (seven throws, three runs) that went for 39 yards and only one first down in the first fifteen minutes of play.
The Texans were able to take advantage of good field position given to them by Denver’s lack of offensive efficacy and two bad Riley Dixon punts. Brock Osweiler was relatively ineffective through the air, but Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue were able to carve out two long runs to the left side of the field that helped set up two Nick Novak field goals to give the Texans a 6-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
After starting off the first quarter with an atrocious offensive performance, the Broncos offense started to sizzle in the second quarter. Trevor Siemian led the Broncos on a ten play, 75 yard touchdown drive that was capped off with a seven yard C.J. Anderson touchdown scamper. To his credit, Siemian showed demonstrable poise and precision on the scoring series, going 5-for-5 for 55 yards and hitting the mark on several first down throws.
The Broncos were able to stop the Texans on their ensuing offensive possession and capitalized on good field position once again. After a handful of tremendous runs by rookie Devontae Booker, Siemian was able to hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 29 yard gain that took the Broncos into the red zone. On a third and goal play, Siemian hit Demaryius Thomas in the end zone on a four yard touchdown pass that gave the Broncos a 14-6 lead with just over four minutes to go in the second quarter.
Denver’s defense continued to rattle Osweiler, gaining consistent pressure on him through blitzes and line stunts which caused him a ton of confusion. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips showed his coaching prowess by deploying a handful of different defensive looks -- switching from classic man-to-man coverage looks to several occurrences of zone coverage, in particular on third downs.
With a little less than two minutes left, the men donning orange and blue got the ball back and had ample enough time to score. Alas, instead of pressing for more points, Head Coach Gary Kubiak opted to let the clock run out, despite having one timeout left and being within striking distance for Brandon McManus to attempt a field goal.
His passive and conservative nature in that respect merited a handful of boos from the hometown crowd, and even a visual display of frustration from Anderson who shared similar sentiments of those cheering he and his teammates on.
At the end of thirty minutes of play, the Broncos held an eight point lead heading into halftime. They outgained the Texans in the first half 198 yards to 123 yards — thanks in part to a dominating rushing attack. Anderson and Booker accounted for 96 yards on the ground on 13 carries for a whopping 7.4 yard per carry average, topped off with Siemian hitting 10-of-16 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown pass.
The Broncos received the ball to start the second half, but reverted back to their old offensive struggles and began the third quarter with another three-and-out.
Aided by a 36 yard pass interference penalty on T.J. Ward, Osweiler and the Texans were quickly on the prowl and on the Broncos’ side of the field. Much to the chagrin of Osweiler, the Broncos defense held strong, forcing Novak to a 34 yard field goal attempt. The kick was blocked by Aqib Talib, but he was called offsides and Novak was able to connect on his third field goal of the night from 29 yards to bring the Texans within five points.
The Broncos started their second possession of the third quarter at the 20 yard line and quickly fizzled once more, fading into old habits which resulted in yet another three-and-out and gave the Texans fantastic field position.
Just when it seemed like the Texans were ready to pounce and put up another score on the Broncos' defense, Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward caused a huge turnover when they decimated Blue and forced a fumble that was picked up by Todd Davis and helped change the momentum of the game.
We're knocking on the door. Here's why https://t.co/5N0jIIop9d— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 25, 2016
After the turnover, the Broncos went back to what worked well in the first half — the power running game. The duo of Anderson and Booker carved up the Texans’ 29th ranked rushing defense and quickly put the Broncos in scoring position. Several plays later, Siemian hit Sanders deep on a back shoulder throw for 31 yards that brought them within two yards of pay dirt.
Andy Janovich wasn't able to pound it in from the two yard line, but on their second rushing attempt, Booker was able to sneak into the end zone that capped off a seven play, 73 yard drive and gave the Broncos a 21-9 lead with the third quarter coming to a close.
Would Osweiler and the Texans be able to storm back from a two touchdown deficit and defeat the Broncos?
Absolutely not. In Kyle Orton-esque fashion, Brock went back for a pass and the ball rolled out of his hands for a fumble which was promptly scooped up by Chris Harris Jr. at the 32 yard line. Denver's offense was able to get deeper into Texans territory, but could only muster a 22 yard McManus field goal to extend their lead to 24-9.
Brock Oswhiffler, apparently pic.twitter.com/gZOl9Qzlmn— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) October 25, 2016
Once more, Osweiler had the chance to prove he was worth the $72 million dollars the Texans gave him in free agency, but failed to deliver and cracked under the immense pressure of the Broncos' premier pass rush. He never managed to get anything going all game long, and the Texans' aerial assault was beyond atrocious and only amassed 131 yards through the air for the game's entirety.
When the clock hit zero, the Broncos were victors in a lopsided affair by the tune of 27-9 and now have a 5-2 record and sit atop the AFC West with the Oakland Raiders who share the same record.
It was gridiron domination and the evisceration of Brock Osweiler that fans were hoping for once they saw this game scheduled for prime time all season long. After two weeks of consecutive losses, it sure does feel good to see our beloved Broncos back in the win column!
Hart’s Quick Hits
- Denver's lack of discipline in the trenches continued this evening. Russell Okung had two holding penalties that negated first downs during the first quarter and the weak side of the Broncos' defensive front failed on several outside containment assignments that lead to 25 and 17 yard runs by the Texans’ rushing duo of Miller and Blue.
Despite glowing praises from Kubiak in a press conference earlier this week, defensive end Jared Crick continues to struggle immensely against the run. The Texans’ offensive line, in particular Duane Brown, dominated him at the point of attack and a majority of their 140 rushing yards were on plays to his side of the field.
- C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker combined for 33 carries that went for 190 yards and two scores this evening. Kudos to them for a job well done and a round of applause is due for the offensive line, who dominated the Texans' defensive front all game long. I think it's safe to say that the Broncos could win a lot of football games this year if they run the ball like that and play lights out on defense like they did tonight.
- One big issue from tonight's offensive performance was trouble on third down conversions. The Broncos were only 3/11 on third down conversions. An area they simply have struggled at all year long and need to get better at quickly.
- Speaking of the defense, they limited Brock Osweiler to 131 yards passing. He completed only 21-of-42 attempts and struggled immensely all game long. Do you think the Texans are suffering from buyers' remorse yet? I certainly would think so. A tip of the hat to John Elway for bowing out of the Osweiler sweepstakes and realizing that he wasn't the teams' quarterback of the future.
- The Broncos' coverage men were phenomenal this evening, especially their corners. DeAndre Hopkins was nowhere to be found and only reeled in five catches for a lousy 36 six yards. There's no doubt that the No Fly Zone is the best in the business, and they keep proving it week in and week out with their dominating performances against some of the NFL's best wide receivers.
Top-graded Broncos on defense in #HOUvsDEN:— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 25, 2016
1.CB Aqib Talib 89.2
2.CB Chris Harris 87.3
3.S Darian Stewart 84.1
4.DE Derek Wolfe 83.3
- Denver deserves credit for turning up their offensive performance in the second quarter, but their lackluster starts are still a viable source of criticism and cause for concern. The Broncos have easily been the league's worst offensive performing team in the first quarter this season and have been outscored 47-13 in that regard.
- Speaking of slow starts out of the gate — how about slow starts in the second half? Booker's one-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter was the Broncos' first score in the third quarter all season long.
- Hats off to the Broncos' special teams unit, who did a great job on punt and kick-off return coverage. Corey Nelson was a very active member of this unit and did a great job in putting the Texans in poor field position on kick-offs.
- Texans right tackle Derek Newton was carted off the field early in the game after facing Von Miller one-on-one in pass protection. It was later revealed that he suffered torn patella tendons in both knees according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Prayers and best wishes to Newton for a speedy recovery.