Houston Texans Survive First Test of ’12

Quarterback Matt Schaub (8) congratulates wide receiver Andre Johnson (80) after Johnson caught a pass for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

The Houston Texans defeated the Denver Broncos 31-25 in what was considered the first true challenge of the newly named AFC powerhouse.

After basically spotting the Denver Broncos five points to begin the game on a safety and field goal, the Houston Texans unleashed their dynamic offense and scored 21 straight points.

The defense was keeping Broncos’ star QB Peyton Manning at bay, and the offense looked unstoppable. The game was looking reminiscent of the Texans’ first two games of the year. But Manning isn’t Ryan Tannehill or Blaine Gabbert, and Denver is, by far, the best team that the Texans have seen this year.

If you watched the game, you know where this is going. If you didn’t, (although you’ve likely heard the score by now) you might be extremely nervous that Manning strung together another devastating comeback against his former punching bag in the AFC South.

Surprise, surprise Manning, who has amassed 47 career comeback drives, did lead the Broncos on an impressive charge that brought them all the way back to within a touchdown of crashing the Texans’ party. But Denver did not get that last much-needed score and the Texans have yet to lose in 2012.

There was a lot of good, but some unnerving bad in this game for Houston.

The bad was that after clawing their way out of a slow start, the Texans left the door open for Manning and his offense to get back in the game. The bad was also that Houston’s defense seemed to have no answer for the no-huddle offense. Now granted, nobody runs the no-huddle like Peyton Manning, but that’s definitely something the Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips will want to watch out for in the weeks to come.

Houston didn’t suffer any extreme mental breakdowns that cost them the game, (see Washington Redskins in week 2) but it was obvious that the Texans’ secondary was getting extremely frustrated during the fourth quarter. Blowing assignments and committing penalties at the same time is never a good combination. This group of defensive backs is extremely talented, but they have to be better about playing under control. If you get beat, tackle the guy with the ball or let your offense come out and do what they do while you get mentally prepared to come back out and make a big stop.

I have full confidence that all of these problems are fixable for the Texans’, but they are definitely things that will be exploited by better opponents if left unattended.

Now that that’s over, here’s the good news.

Wide receiver Lestar Jean (18) leaps to catch a pass against Denver Broncos strong safety Chris Harris (25) in the third quarter Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Texans not only won in their first competitive game of the year, but they continued to look like a good team. It’s easy to live up to all of the hype when you are playing weaker teams of the league, but it backs up that hype when you win the big games.

Secondly, the Texans won this game without forcing any turnovers and giving the ball away on two different occasions. That means that Houston beat Manning on a good day and stayed a step ahead of one of the better pass-rushing defenses in the league.

But wait, there’s more!

Andre Johnson looks as good as he ever has, in my opinion. He finished the day with only two receptions, but they were two of the most important catches in the game. The first was a 60-yard bomb, during which Johnson outran the Broncos secondary. The second was a 12-yard pass during the Texans’ final drive of the night. The catch went for a huge first down that kept the drive alive and helped run out enough time on the clock to quell the charging Broncos.

Matt Schaub also looked elite, finishing the day having completed 17-of-30 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns.


The Houston Texans (3-0) are in great shape as they prepare to face off with the Tennessee Titans (1-2) in Reliant Stadium next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.