The POGs: Denver Edition

Patrick D. Starr

DENVER, Co. – The Houston Texans rode the Denver Broncos to a 31-25 win Sunday afternoon at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos came out of the gate with a quick 5-0 lead, all started by a sack-safety courtesy of the dangerous Broncos’ defensive end Elvis Dumervil. The Texans regrouped and then proceeded to dominate the remainder of the game by playing their brand of football, which resulted in a 20 point lead going into the last quarter. However, Peyton Manning and his stable of receivers made a late fourth quarter push that turned out to be too little too late.

The Texans almost doubled the Broncos’ rushing output by collecting 152 total yards on 34 attempts, and finished with 436 total yards compared to the Broncos’ 375. Offensively, the Texans were able to take advantage of Broncos’ defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s aggressive approach. As outlined in the Texans to Watch Denver Edition, if the safeties were sucked up into run support or had to help cover the underneath passes in the middle of the field, then Andre Johnson would be open over the top – which he and Walter both were and scored on big plays. The Broncos’ safeties were also noted as the “weak-links” – and Kubiak and Schaub took advantage.

“We knew we had to make some big plays. They challenged us, played a lot of man coverage. Jack [Del Rio] got very aggressive in some of the things he did so I tried to give us chances to make big plays and we did. [WR] Andre [Johnson] makes a big play on the boot throwback early in the game. The throw that Matt made to [WR] Kevin [Walter] for a touchdown (52-yard pass, second quarter) was a tremendous play. But we knew we were going to have to make some big plays, it wasn’t a percentage type throwing day because of the way they played us, but it was a big play throwing day so we were able to make those plays.”

In other words, Jack Del Rio didn’t respect Matt Schaub’s ability to throw the ball deep and he and the Broncos paid mightily. Fortunately for the Texans, the deep passes for touchdowns were back breakers, demoralized the Broncos and momentarily quieted the crowd.

After the game, All Pro future Hall of Famer Broncos’ cornerback Champ Bailey was asked about his thoughts on the Texans’ big plays and said, “I honestly don’t know, exactly. It’s one of those things as a corner you just don’t want to do, is give up a deep play. They could throw 100 comebacks and curls, but don’t give up the deep one. It’s tough out there. It is what it is. We’ve got to learn from it and try to get better.”

Bailey went on to give praise to Kubiak, “[Texans Head Coach Gary] Kubiak’s one of the best to ever do it, so you’ve got to give him a lot of credit for the scheme they ran because there’s a lot of open people running. It’s all about that scheme.”

Offensive Player of the Game

This week’s Offensive Player of the Game goes to the gutsy performance of quarterback Matt Schaub. Since coming off his season ending injury last year, Schaub was nearly flawless in pre-season and through two games. The game against Denver wasn’t flawless, but it should put an end to the critics who have recently ushered in the doubts of Schaub being able to throw the deep ball. He connected with seven different receivers and four of those went for touchdowns. He had a deep pass connection early in the game to Andre Johnson for 60 yards and added another one later to Kevin Walter for 52 yards.

In the midst of the Offensive Player of the Game performance, Schaub took a vicious hit from Broncos’ linebacker Joe Mays, which resulted in a 15 yard penalty and probably a call from the NFL front office later this week. He left the game for only one play.

After the game, Schaub was asked how he felt and about the hit, “I felt fine, you know, I just lost a little piece of my ear – I was bleeding and my helmet came off so I had to come out for a play, but I was fine.”

A determined quarterback on a determined team.

Schaub also received the game ball from Kubiak. “I gave it to our quarterback. Like I said, I just think that he came in here and played gutsy and got banged around a little bit and stood in there for his football team. He’s the leader of this football team and there’s no doubt. They know they can count on him and I was very impressed with him, so I gave it to him,” Kubiak said after the game.

Is there anyone still calling for TJ Yates to replace Matt Schaub? Bueller…Bueller…Bueller….

No disrespect TJ.

Defensive Player of the Game

The defense was equally impressive. This may be a redundant theme throughout the year, but once again J.J. Watt is this week’s Defensive Player of the Game. Through three games, Watt ranks 2nd in the NFL and 1st in the AFC with 5.5 sacks. He dominated an inferior Broncos’ offensive line by posting 2.5 sacks, 7 tackles and 1 assisted tackle. Four of the seven tackles were for a loss.

As referenced in theTexans to Watch Denver Edition, the entire defensive front was called upon to perform, and they did, led by Watt. They corralled the Broncos’ running game by limiting them to only 59 yards. This resulted in third and longs and gave the Texans a chance to tee off on Manning. Manning was forced to step up in the pocket as well as out of the pocket. For most of the game, he was extremely uncomfortable, out of sync and maybe even stunned that a Texans’ defense was capable of such, since he has dominated the Texans for his entire Colts career.

When asked after the game about the Texans' defense, Manning said, “I think they are a good defense. I thought they were good coming in. They certainly played well, and I think when we’re not hitting on all cylinders against a good defense, that’s not what you want. You need to be on your game, be a little sharper, when you’re going against a good defense like that.” Maybe the Broncos weren’t hitting on all cylinders or maybe they just ran into a better team.

Oh, and the Texans forced Manning into a career-high 26 incomplete passes, or was that because the Broncos weren’t hitting on all cylinders?

Either way, the Texans move to a franchise record 3-0 start and play division rival Tennessee Titans at home next Sunday, which could prove to be a closer game than most think.

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