Texans 31, Broncos 25: At Long Last, Houston Has Its 3-0 Start (Four Reasons Why)
In 2010, a 2-0 start came crashing down in an embarrassing home loss to Dallas. In 2011, they nearly improved to 3-0 before the defense unraveled in the fourth quarter in New Orleans.
In 2012, however, they smashed the door in. Sunday's win over the Broncos (1-2) and longtime nemesis Peyton Manning moves the Texans to 3-0 for the first time ever and cements their status as one of the league's premier franchises.
After just three weeks, the Texans now have a full two-game lead on the entire AFC South. Historically, teams that start 3-0 make the postseason 76 percent of the time.
"We had the character to find a way to finish the game and get out of here with a win," said head coach Gary Kubiak.
Cliché as it may be, Sunday represented the epitome of a team win. The Texans offense hit the Broncos early with explosive bursts, including touchdown strikes from Matt Schaub of 60 and 52 yards to Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter.
Then, as Denver tightened the screws a bit in the second half, Phillips's group stifled Manning and the Broncos in the third quarter as the Texans broke open a 31-11 lead.
"If we play our defense, our offense, our game, I don't think there's a team that could beat us," said defensive end Antonio Smith.
The victory, of course, didn't come without intrigue. The Broncos scored a safety on the Texans' first play from scrimmage and then raced down the field to a 1st-and-goal.
In the second half, just as the Texans appeared to be in cruise control, a bizarre combination of a Ben Tate fumble, several awful penalties on the Houston secondary, and a fluke tipped-ball touchdown to former Texan Joel Dreessen seemed to have them reeling.
But on every occasion, the Texans had an answer and came out with a statement win on the road. Here's a look at the key players who made that happen.
5.) Johnathan Joseph
The secondary spotlight in the first two weeks was on the improvement of third-year No. 2 corner Kareem Jackson. On Sunday, Joseph showed why he remains among the league's best at his position. Denver's Demaryius Thomas entered with a touchdown in each of his first two games, averaging over six catches and 90 yards per game. Against Joseph, he caught just three passes for 30 yards and no scores.
Manning completed a mere 50 percent of his passes Sunday, and only reached that mark by padding statistics late in the game with the outcome all but decided. On three occasions, the Texans should have intercepted him. The airtight coverage of Joseph on the prized young wideout had a lot to do with that.
4.) Arian Foster
Foster was his usual self against the Broncos, rushing 25 times for 105 yards while adding a receiving touchdown. But what was most impressive was how his success early in the game opened things up for Schaub, Johnson and the Houston passing game. Foster's first three carries went for 41 yards, drawing in the Denver safeties and allowing Schaub to go playaction and find his receivers over the top.