About midway through the fourth quarter of yesterday’s game, fans watching began to get a feeling the past was rearing it’s ugly head. Leading 31-11, the Houston Texans were in the drivers seat with about ten and a half minutes left when they gave the ball back to the Denver Broncos. Just 31 seconds later, Broncos QB and notorious Texan killer Peyton Manning led his team down the field for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 31-18. 49 seconds later, the Texans went three and out and put the ball back in Manning’s hands. In old school Peyton fashion, he drove the Broncos 74 yards through passing, Texans penalties, and tipped passes to cut the lead again to 31-25 with three minutes remaining.
During the Texans first eight seasons of existence, everybody would know how this was going to end. Peyton would get the ball back one more time, drive the field and throw his third TD in the fourth quarter to steal a win away from the hapless Texans. However, Sunday proved to be an official changing of the guard. Peyton may no longer call the AFC South his home, but the Texans showed him he no longer owned the Texans. When Houston got the ball back with exactly three minutes left, they were able to pick up a crucial first down that allowed them to hold the ball long enough to give it back to Peyton at his own 14 yard line with only 20 seconds left. The result was a 31-25 victory and the first 3-0 start in Texans franchise history.
Texans QB Matt Schaub led the way offensively, outplaying Manning to the tune of 290 yards and four touchdown passes (and one INT). Schaub was able to take advantage of the Bronco defense early as Denver was burned in their attempt to shut down the Texans run game. WR Kevin Walter, typically known as a blocking wideout, led the Texans with 3 catches for 74 yards and a TD. Andre Johnson also hauled in 2 passes for 74 yards and a score, while TE Owen Daniels 3 catches for 26 yards and a TD.
Just because the Broncos were focused on shutting down the run doesn’t mean they were successful. RB Arian Foster carried the ball 25 times for 105 yards to go with a three-yard TD catch. Ben Tate also had 8 carries for 26 yards.
Defensively, the Texans were dominant for three quarters and played well enough in the fourth to hold on for the win. DE J.J. Watt was once again a standout, recording seven total tackles, 2.5 sacks, an additional four tackles for a loss, and another three QB hits. On a whole, the Texans defense did an excellent job controlling the line of scrimmage and putting pressure on Manning while playing solid coverage in the secondary. Some additional standouts, despite the lack of stats to back it up, were NT Earl Mitchell and S Glover Quin.
The defense held Peyton to just a 50% completion percentage, albeit for 330 yards, two TDs, and no INTs. On top of putting constant pressure on Peyton, the Texans’ run defense was stifling, holding the Broncos to just 59 yards on 21 carries for an average of 2.8 yards a carry.
There are certainly some concerns for the 3-0 Texans, most notably their fourth quarter where they almost coughed up a 20-point lead. The offense went stagnant while the defense suddenly had difficulties putting pressure on Manning. The Texans still have much to improve on moving forward, but as one of the NFL’s three 3-0 teams, people who haven’t already taken notice of the Texans need to open their eyes.
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