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Taking the Reins: 3 keys to victory over the Texans

With lessons learned from a Week 1 loss, here are three keys to victory for the Broncos to turn things around against Houston this Sunday.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As we head into the Denver Broncos’ home opener, it’s time for a bounce back game. After the debacle in Seattle, this Broncos team should be hungry and looking to redeem themselves.

Let’s take a look at the top three boxes they’ll need to check in order to accomplish that goal:

#1: Nail the details, on and off the field

Sloppy. Messy. Unfocused. Undisciplined. Throw whatever adjective you like at it, last week’s game was bad. It was bad for the players for the most part, and it was certainly bad for head coach Nathaniel Hackett. To win this week, the Broncos will need to clean that up.

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Penalties need to come way, way down. At 12 penalties costing over 100 total yards, discipline & technique issues easily cost Denver the game last week. And there were still more potential penalties- especially offensive holds- that the refs left hanging on the branch.

In similar fashion, that caught ball that bounced out on impact with the end zone and that toe that edged over the line- those need to be cleaned up too.

Nathaniel Hackett and company certainly have work to do as well. The kick-vs-go-for-it decision at the end of the game was the most glaring issue, but slow communication also plagued the offense throughout the game and resulted in multiple delay of game penalties. Red zone play calling may bear some review as well.

DENVER BRONCOS VS SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, NFL Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

#2: Put the game on Davis Mills’ shoulders

Like most young QBs, Mills operates best when things are going well. Let the Houston Texans get ahead, and let him be a game manager and just another cog in their offense, and he’s likely to have an efficient and productive game. That’s exactly what happened last week against the Indianapolis Colts.

Instead, the Broncos need to score early. Jump out to a lead, preferably a two score lead, and you put the weight of a comeback attempt squarely on Mills. The Texans’ rushing attack isn’t great anyway, but stripping that crutch by forcing Houston into a pass-heavy game script will lead to mistakes by Mills & Co., to sack opportunities, and to potential interceptions. This defense, especially this secondary, is fully capable of exploiting that.

#3: Don’t let Brandin Cook(s)

Patrick Surtain II, this is your time to shine.

Surtain will likely be spending most of the game covering the Texans’ biggest receiving threat, Brandin Cooks. Cooks’ 7 catches for 82 yards last week were far and away the biggest receiving involvement in the passing game. If Surtain locks him down and forces Mills to look elsewhere, it will mess with the Texans’ offensive rhythm and pacing and open them up to greater potential for sacks and mistakes.

Yes, OJ Howard caught both receiving touchdowns last week. He shouldn’t be ignored by any means, but the odds are long against him continuing to catch a TD with every reception. Cooks is easily the bigger threat. Darby, Jackson, and Sterns should be able to keep Howard in check, especially if Jewell is back and takes part in those coverage duties. He may not match Howard’s sheer athleticism, but the Broncos’ ILB1 has the top notch instincts and timing to make up for it.

What are your top keys to victory for the Broncos on Sunday?