The Houston Texans entered today’s game on a five-game winning streak while the Denver Broncos were going in the absolute opposite direction — losing five of their last six contests. The Broncos mounted a comeback in the final minutes of the game, only to wind up losing 19-17 when Brandon McManus missed a 51-yard kick that could have secured victory.
Instead of going into the bye week with a much needed victory, the Broncos endure another heart-breaking loss and move to 3-6 on the season. That’s certainly not the scenario Broncos Country was hoping for. Here are five things we learned from today’s game.
1. A different week yields similar and forlorn results
It seems like outside of a select few games this season that the Broncos have had the opportunity to achieve victory in the final moments of the contest. Alas, the cataclysm continued with the Broncos enduring a series of self-inflicted wounds that wound up costing them the game. Inopportune penalties? Check. Questionable play-calling? Yup. Missed kicks with the game on the line? Oofta. No matter what week it is, the Broncos seem to always fall short and end up being their own worst enemies. It has been a nightmare of a season, but fortunately there is a one week break from future letdowns on the horizon.
2. The Broncos’ continue their trend of turning the ball over
The overarching theme and bane of the Broncos’ offense through the season to date has been their penchant for turning the ball over. That trend continued in today’s game. The Broncos’ stable of running backs hadn’t lost a fumble all year long, but that changed when Booker put the ball on the ground early on in the second quarter. It ended up proving to be a costly turnover, with DeAndre Hopkins snagging a 16-yard touchdown grab against Justin Simmons a few plays later.
On a similar note, Vance Joseph’s decision to attempt a 62-yard field goal instead of going for it on fourth down (or punting) in the final moments of the first half proved to be costly. Brandon McManus missed the kick and the Texans’ offense was able to get into field goal range and rack up three more points to give them a six-point lead as the half ended. In the end that was a gamble that didn’t pay off for Denver and one that had a hand in changing the overall outcome of the game.
Unfortunately, the Broncos have had at least one turnover in the past twelve games, which is the longest streak in that respect in the National Football League. Undisciplined teams who routinely turn the ball over aren’t going to win many games. That’s a significant reason why the Broncos are 3-6 heading into their bye week and on pace to have back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in over four decades.
3. Jeff Heuerman finally has a breakout game
With the departure of Demaryius Thomas, all of Broncos Country was expected Courtland Sutton to be the next man up and make big plays in the passing game. While Sutton had three catches for 57 yards, it was fourth-year tight end Jeff Heuerman who had a breakout game. In fact, it was the best of his career albeit in a losing effort. The former Ohio State product proved to be an integral part in the Broncos’ passing game and registered a handful of third and fourth down conversions for the team. Overall, he had 10 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. Not too shabby.
4. The Texans’ defense halted the Broncos’ prominent rushing attack
One of the constant bright spots for the Broncos this season has been their dominant rushing attack. Unfortunately, the staunch front seven of the Texans is one of the league’s best against the run. It was obvious that their defensive prowess in the trenches was a significant cause for concern, which is why I outlined it my Scouting the Enemy segment yesterday. Without question, the Texans’ front seven were the victors over the Broncos’ offensive line this afternoon.
Phillip Lindsay and Devontae Booker were held in check all game long outside of a 14-yard touchdown scamper by Booker late in the second quarter. The two combined for only 75 yards on 20 carries. Those poor statistics signaled the worst production the Broncos have amassed all year long on the ground with respect to total yards and yards per carry. Royce Freeman will be ready to tote the rock two weeks from today when the Broncos take on the Los Angeles Chargers, but the future consistency of the Broncos’ rushing attack will be questionable given the unfortunate news below.
5. The Broncos’ offensive line loses Matt Paradis to injury
The Broncos’ offensive line suffered another brutal loss when center Matt Paradis went down early on in the game with a lower leg injury. According to Mike Klis, it is believed he suffered a fractured fibula. The franchise had already lost prominent guard Ronald Leary for the season after he tore his Achilles in their loss several weeks ago to the Los Angeles Rams. The loss of Paradis forced Connor McGovern to move to center with second-year player Elijah Wilkinson being inserted to left guard. Well wishes, prayers and a speedy recovery go out to Paradis who has proven to be one of the best centers in the league over the past several seasons.
So Broncos Country, what were your five big observations from today’s game? Sound off in the comments section and make your voice heard!