A 26-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian to Corbin Louks with a minute and 44 seconds remaining was the difference in a 14-10 win Saturday night for the Denver Broncos over the Houston Texans.
Things weren't looking good for the Broncos after they allowed 10 unanswered second-half points. But Siemian saved the day, going 7-of-10 for 89 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
While the Broncos got fairly strong play from all three of their quarterbacks, the same couldn't exactly be said of the Houston Texans, who went a combined 27-of-42 through the air for 211 yards. Tom Savage was the leading passer with 168 yards.
Nobody stood out between he, Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer, which is making Bill O'Brien's decision even more difficult, per Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com:
On the other side, Peyton Manning is an obvious lock to start the regular season for the Broncos. He played the whole of the first quarter and led the offense on the first drive of the second quarter before making his exit. He finished 8-of-14 with 52 yards passing.
"I thought he was fine," said Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak of Manning's performance, per Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com. "We hurt him; we dropped two big third downs, and had a couple of penalties that stalled drives, but as far as him, he looked fine."
Coincidentally enough, the Broncos scored on their first series after Manning's departure. Brock Osweiler led an eight-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a 57-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell 7:21 from halftime.
Osweiler hit Caldwell perfectly in stride after the veteran wideout got in behind the secondary. You can view a replay of the TD throw below (via the NFL):
Former All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins believes the 24-year-old quarterback is making big strides in his NFL career:
ESPN.com's Louis Riddick added the entire Broncos offensive unit is looking stronger and stronger under Osweiler's stewardship:
Osweiler couldn't build a similar drive over the remainder of the first half, but Denver still entered the locker room with a 7-0 lead.
A 32-yard field goal from Randy Bullock roughly six-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter got the Texans on the board as they trimmed the deficit to four points at 7-3. Savage went 4-of-5 on the drive as he helped lead Houston down the field.
Kourtnei Brown then put the home team ahead 10-7 with a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown. Daniel Gotera of KHOU 11 in Houston wondered if Brown is making a strong enough case for a place on the Texans' final roster:
Houston nearly added to its lead with 9:27 left in the game. On a 4th-and-2 from the Broncos' 2-yard line, Savage's pass for Uzoma Nwachukwu fell incomplete. That turnover wiped out a nice 11-play, 64-yard drive that ate nearly five minutes off the clock.
Although the Broncos wouldn't immediately capitalize on the swing in momentum, they eventually got back on top after Siemian engineered a 92-yard drive that needed just two minutes of game time. Mason was impressed with what he saw from the former Northwestern star:
Manning and Osweiler will obviously be the top two QBs in the depth chart, but Denver would do well to hold on to Siemian as an emergency backup.
He'll likely get more looks in the Broncos' next preseason game a week on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers. You'd expect Manning to play a little deeper into the game, but Siemian should have ample chance to build on this victory.
The Texans, meanwhile, will play the New Orleans Saints next Sunday. Given the Saints' defensive issues last year, it could be a nice opportunity for somebody to distance himself in Houston's quarterback race.