HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – It was far from pretty, but the Texans should feel pretty good about themselves after an 18-17 victory over the Broncos Saturday night.


Some Guys Were Back
It was nice to see Andre Johnson and Brian Cushing return to the field, even if they saw limited reps.

Johnson – very unsurprisingly – was Ryan Fitzpatrick’s go to guy. He threw it 80’s way on 3 of his first 4 passes, and ultimately went Dre’s way 5 out of the 13 plays he was on the field. Johnson will likely get more looks the more comfortable he got.

They were more cautious with Cushing – who only played 13 snaps (the length of the Broncos opening drive). In that limited opportunity, Cushing did make one, tackling Ronnie Hillman for a one yard loss.

Meanwhile, no key (sorry James Ferentz) offensive player was on the field longer than Brandon Brooks. Brooks logged 55 plays on the night – 80% of the total snaps – and played a big role (along with Derek Newton – 44 snaps) on an offensive line that didn’t allow a sack. Give Fitzpatrick some credit for that number – he used his feet to escape a couple of pressures. But the whole line deserves kudos as well. Keeping pass rush specialists like Von Miller ( though he only played 9 snaps) and DeMarcus Ware (25 plays) off the stat sheet ain’t easy.

Bend…but don’t Break
Peyton Manning and the Broncos were able to move the ball at will. But until the final minute of the first half, Denver’s record setting offense only scored 3 points. That’s because Romeo Crennel’s defense was able to do what Crennel’s early 2000 Patriots D’s did – stiffen in their own territory.

Two Broncos first half drives: a 14 play, 66 yard drive (that took 7:36) then a 13 play, 50 yard drive (that took 6:18) resulted in a Matt Prater 32 yard field goal and a Prater miss from 50 respectively. You’ll take that against the league’s best offense every chance you get. It’s just a matter of scoring points on the other side of the ball.

Savage and Labhart: Saturdays on TNT
TNT has – or has had – way (two) too many buddy shows with two last names in the title. But I’d be down to watch a show called “Savage and Labhart” Friday nights (they’re third stringers – so Friday is probably the best they’re going to get) on cable TV. In just one drive together together, Tom Savage hit Travis Labhart to convert a third down, a fourth down, and then the go ahead two point conversion. Yes – they did this all against backups TO backups – but Savage deserves credit bouncing back from a rough performance against the Falcons. Just like Labhart earned props by making plays with another quarterback.

And don’t forget about Ryan Griffin. The second year tight end caught all five of the passes thrown his way (3 from Case Keenum, 2 from Savage), including the game winning 31 yard touchdown pass (the Texans’ longest pass of the night).

And A Whole Lotta Luck
Don’t get me wrong…the win was nice. But there were a handful of nearly intercepted passes by Ryan Fitzpatrick, not to mention two missed field goals and a Manning interception that came off of miscommunication between number 18 and Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders.


Dink and Dunk
Breaking news: The Texans are going to struggle to throw the ball downfield. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s arm doesn’t look much stronger than Matt Schaub’s. He really struggles to put the ball in tight windows. And as such, he finished his night 10-17 for 80 yards. There were no interceptions (a few close calls though) or sacks. But NFL quarterbacks should average more than 4.7 yards per attempt. And Fitzpatrick’s total would have been lower without a 24 yard catch and run from Jonathan Grimes. At some point, the Texans have to figure out a way to throw the ball downfield and make big plays happen. Otherwise, Arian Foster is going to have a very difficult time with defenses loading the box to stop him.

So…About Those Two Minutes…

If you could erase the final 1:41 of the first half, we’d all be feeling a lot better about the Texans’ victory. But those back to back Bronco quick strikes were flat out embarrassing.

On drive one, the Broncos had the ball on their OWN 7. Three plays later…they were in the end zone. An 18 yard Brandon Harris pass interference didn’t help. Still, it wasn’t nearly as egregious as allowing a 67 yard strike for 6 to Sanders. The secondary has just one job with minutes left in the half – don’t let receivers past you. Technically, that’s always their job, but with time running out, it’s inexcusable.

The Texans didn’t help themselves on the next drive. Fitzpatrick incompletions on first and second down (ultimately leading to a three and out) gave Denver PLENTY of time to strike again in three plays. D.J. Swearinger’s unnecessary roughness call was sketchy (Swagg hit with his shoulder while Welker was trying to duck). Unfortunately, the reputation he’s created for himself the last few weeks meant there was NO WAY he’d get the benefit of the doubt. One play later, Manning hit Sanders with another perfect pass for 6.

These things happen against Denver. They should not happen so easily.

Paul Gallant hosts the “B-Straw and Pauly G” show – weeknights 7-11 PM – with Brien Straw. Get in contact with Paul on Twitter – @PaulyGSays – or on Facebook – Paul Gallant.

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