For the 2012 Denver Broncos, the health and effectiveness of Peyton Manning is always going to be a major factor in the performance of the team. On Sunday, Manning rebounded from a tough Monday-night performance, but the defense couldn’t slow down Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans.
The Broncos would mount a late comeback attempt but eventually succumbed 31-25 to the Texans at home. The effort to try to get back into the game was impressive and showed that the Broncos are a team that won’t quit even if their opponents have big leads.
It also showed it takes timely performances and a team to win football games, not just one player.
The Broncos had an issue preventing big plays on defense, and the Texans would hit on big plays on seemingly every drive until they had a comfortable lead. From top to bottom, Houston might the best football team in the AFC, and they showed just how tough they can be against the Broncos. The Broncos actually got an early five-point lead thanks to a safety and field goal, but the Texans would score 21 unanswered points after that to go up 21-5.
Houston used good defense and explosive offensive plays to beat the Broncos. Andre Johnson had a 60-yard touchdown catch in which he ran by multiple Broncos defenders to get the Texans on the board.
A false-start penalty and a sack by defensive end J.J. Watt foiled the Broncos on their next offensive possession, the defense promptly allowed three plays of more than 20 yards, and the Broncos found themselves in a quick 14-5 hole.
Down by nine points, Manning and Willis McGahee were unable to get a first down, and the Broncos had to punt the ball back to the Texans. Of course, the Texans took just two plays to score again on another long pass to go up 21-5. Manning would pull the Broncos within 10 at halftime with two field goals before the half, but the Texans were able to turn on the jets once again in the third quarter to put the game away.
Of Course, a 31-11 lead didn’t scare Manning, and he brought the Broncos back against a relaxed defense with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a long strike to Brandon Stokley.
If there is something good to come from the loss for the Broncos, it might be the chemistry Manning built with Eric Decker, as the two connected eight times for 136 yards. Manning also attempted 52 passes without throwing an interception and once again tested his deep arm with positive results.
The Broncos' rebuilt secondary has been fire-tested after three games against the Steelers, Falcons and Texans. Don’t expect much to change in Week 4 just because the Oakland Raiders are coming to town. Oakland put on a passing display of its own against Pittsburgh, and Carson Palmer has been playing some of the best football of his career through the first three games.
Are you worried about Denver's defense?
It was also Denver’s first big test against a rushing offense, and the front seven performed reasonably well, considering that the Texans were run heavy once they had a big lead. Arian Foster had 105 yards on 25 carries, and Ben Tate added eight carries for 26 yards. Take away one big run by a wide receiver, and the Broncos held the Texans under four yards per carry.
The running game was disappointing against the Texans, but that’s what happens when you fall behind early to a good defense and have to abandon the game plan. The Broncos should make a greater effort to get McGahee going against Oakland in hopes that they can have a more balanced offensive attack.