Texans 31, Broncos 25: At Long Last, Houston Has Its 3-0 Start (Four Reasons Why)
|Photo by Marco Torres|
|Matt Schaub can carry this team.|
On a day in which he caught a 60-yard touchdown, it was a routine 12-yard out that may have been his biggest play. With things on the verge of slipping away late in the fourth and the Texans facing a 3rd-and-5, Johnson's precise route-running helped him find a small crease on a drag route. His first-down catch essentially ended the game. Meanwhile, the earlier touchdown came with the Texans trailing, 5-0, and facing a 1st-and-20 after back-to-back penalties.
"I've been through the worst of the worst with the organization, and now we've climbed that mountain and we're still climbing," said Johnson.
Two catches for 72 yards and a touchdown are far from career numbers for the most storied player in Texans history. But it was the timing of each that proved most critical, knocking the wind out of the sails of the raucous crowd of 76,566 at Denver's Mile High.
2.) J.J. Watt
After the explosive first half had the Texans up 21-5, the offense hit a mid-game lull. Schaub threw an interception at the end of the half that set up a Denver field goal, bringing them within 10. In the third, the Texans put up two three-and-outs and had a promising drive stall with a field goal, owing to a dirty hit that cost Schaub a chunk of his ear and briefly took him out of the game.
Manning and the Broncos, however, were unable to make any headway in that time frame. In fact, the first three Denver drives of the second half never advanced beyond their own 30-yard line. The biggest factor was Watt, who drew a pair of holding penalties and blew up several attempted running plays in the backfield.
Watt finished with 2.5 sacks and six tackles (four for loss), astounding numbers for a player in a position (3-4 end) that, in theory, is supposed to occupy blockers and allow others to make plays. It's just another Sunday at the office for the best defender in the NFL.
1.) Matt Schaub
For the first time this year, Watt isn't at the top of the list. That's because on this day, Kubiak made the perfect call by giving the postgame "game ball" to his quarterback. Schaub took an absolute beating from the Broncos, injuring both his ear and his non-throwing shoulder. But he missed only a single play, threw for four touchdowns and averaged nearly 10 yards per attempt, all on the road against one of the NFL's better teams.
"He was a warrior out there," said tight end Owen Daniels. "He's one of the toughest guys I know."
One of the only questions about the Texans surrounded their ability to win a shootout. The team, on paper, is built around defense and the potent rushing attack of Foster and Tate. In Denver, Schaub stole the show from one of the league's all-time greats and proved the Texans are capable of winning a big pressure-packed game through the air.
That could be an enormous confidence boost if the Texans find themselves playing Manning or Tom Brady come January.