Reporting Paul Gallant
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After a cupcake buffet to open the season, the Texans finally face a real football team Sunday in Denver. Here’s what to look for.
OMG…A Competent Quarterback?
But after missing all of last season with an injured neck, how good is this future Hall-of-Famer?
Through two weeks, that’s a tough question to answer. Against Pittsburgh, Manning thrived – completing 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. Monday in Atlanta was a totally different story. Peyton tossed three first quarter interceptions, and while he was able to pull the Falcons back into the game late, the damage had already been done.
Manning keeps saying he isn’t 100% recovered from his neck injury. That being said, he consistently dodges questions about his arm strength. Based on what I’ve see in two games, it isn’t what it used to be. If you force Manning to throw down field, you can have success, especially with disguised coverage.
And there lies his strength. Manning is the master of pre-snap reads and adjustments. Odds are he’ll have a very good idea of what the Texans throw at him Sunday. The chess match between Peyton and Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be fun to watch.
Manning’s targets are pretty damn good. Eric Decker is a big target with great hands, while Brandon Stokely was one of Peyton’s go-to targets during his time with the Colts. We all remember former Texan tight end Joel Dreesen – who had 6 touchdown catches in Houston last season. Dreesen’s colleague Jacob Tamme is no slouch either. But Denver’s biggest threat is Demaryius Thomas. Over the past 9 games – including the playoffs – Thomas has 49 catches for 933 yards and 6 TDs. Kind of good.
AND…Balance on Offense?
Peyton didn’t have the benefit of a good running game his last go ’round in Indy. He does now. Willis McGahee picked up right where he left off last season. He had 64 yards, averaging 4 per carry week one against a tough Pittsburgh defense. Monday night in Atlanta he was even better. McGahee had 22 carries for 113 yards and 2 TDs…in a losing effort.
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. The Texans D looked very good the first two weeks. But they didn’t go up against multi-dimensional offenses.
In week one, the Dolphins had success running the ball until their 5 minute meltdown at the end of the first half. With a rookie quarterback and a pathetic receiving corps, they didn’t have a chance to crawl back into that game.
I thought we’d see more out of the Jaguars running game last week. After all, Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the best running backs in the league. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, he did nothing. That’s because Blaine Gabbert – the NFL’s worst quarterback – was under center. The Texans could load the box to stop Mojo with no fear of an aerial assault.
That will not be the case Sunday. Manning’s arm strength might be a question, but the balance the Broncos offense has is not. This is a big time test for the Texans.
Stout Run D
The Broncos stuffed the Steelers run game week one, holding them to 2.9 yards a carry. Unimpressed? I was, until Denver held Atlanta’s Michael Turner to 42 yards on 17 attempts Monday night.
Pass rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil might get all the glory. But defensive tackles Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson, plus linebackers Joe Mays and Keith Brooking do the dirty work stuffing the run.
The Pass Rush Ain’t Bad Either
With the aforementioned Miller and Dumervil, the Broncos can get after the passer. They proved it week one – sacking Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger 5 times. Monday though, the Broncos pass rush was non-existent. They had one sack – courtesy of Miller.
Dumervil is somewhat of a concern for Denver. It’s been two games, and Elvis has yet to leave the building with a QB take-down. The pass-rush is a position of strength for the Broncos, and they need to kick start his season somehow. Matching him up on right tackle Derek Newton might be just what the doctor ordered.