Texans 31 Broncos 25
Manning's mind still seems very sharp, and his decision making seems as exceptional as ever, however his body just is betraying him. Despite my hopes that he'd be all the way back, it seems fairly clear that he's not. The Broncos have made it quite clear that there is no Plan B, so a suddenly nervous Bronco fanbase is now left hoping that the rust will shake off, that the problem is correctable with more playing time and not a thirty-six year old quarterback at the end of his run. I wish I had the answer to the question of how much is left in the tank, but only time can answer that question. As a Broncos fan, I can just sit back and hope. And I'm not ready to stop hoping, as there was so much promise in the opening win against Pittsburgh.
While things feel bleak three weeks in sitting at 1-2, let me make it clear that I do not believe that all is lost. Consider that these two losses came to two of the remaining three undefeated NFL teams. (Unbelievably, the third is Arizona.) The schedule doesn't get easy, but it gets easier. And although it is true that the Broncos have started the past two 4th quarters down by 20 points, they have rallied in both games. Granted, they haven't rallied enough, but they aren't lying down when they're getting beaten, making valiant efforts from behind each time.
It's okay to worry, Lord knows I'm worried, but don't give up hope. I have to believe that the longer Peyton plays the better he will look, barring someone re-injuring him. I'm still clinging to the hope that it's rust, and that very solid defenses the past two weeks are more to blame for his struggles than his declining physical skills. While it doesn't look great, that doesn't mean it can't get better, and three games is too small of a sample size to draw too many strong conclusions from. I'm discouraged, but remaining hopeful because for better or for worse...there is no Plan B.
And now, your regularly scheduled thoughts from today's game:
-Third down defense was slightly better this week than it has been, but the Texans still converted half of their attempts, which it too many. They also converted all the important ones, which is why this one is in their W column tonight.
-Jack Del Rio's defense sure feels quite blitz happy. I don't have the numbers to prove this, but sitting out at Invesco today, it seems like rushing just four linemen isn't getting it done, and Del Rio has decided to bring the house more than may be prudent. Of course, just sitting back and letting Matt Schaub just pick you apart isn't all that tasty an option either. Bottom line, the defensive line needs to get more success getting into the backfield, or the defense is going to continue to struggle.
-I love it when a game opens with a safety. A 2-0 score is one of my favorite dopey things that can happen in a football game. Then adding a field goal makes it even goofier, as a 5 spot on the board is just weird.
-DeMaryius Thomas has had better days. Between dropping key throws and failing to get both feet down in the end zone, he was struggling tonight.
-Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy has me scratching my head tonight. Too many running plays late in the game when the clock was as big an enemy as the Texans were. McCoy was praised for his efforts in keeping the game plan conservative for Tim Tebow last year, however, that may be the only way he knows how to play. You need to unleash Peyton Manning a bit, especially when trying to come back from down 20 in the fourth quarter.
-You probably had to be at the game today to appreciate this, but there appears to be a pigeon infestation at Invesco. At multiple points in the game there were people trying to shoo the birds from the field, a few of those moments saw field crew people on the field as plays were getting underway. It was awkward, yet hilarious.
-I really love Arian Foster's little bow celebration after he scores. It's simple, quick, and feels like it should be relatively respectful, and yet when he does it all you can think is that he's flipping you the bird. It's an understated arrogance that I really dig.
-Manning had best be thankful that the Texans secondary can't catch. It felt like about 5 interceptions were bobbled to the ground.
-I know often that quarterbacks underthrow their receivers intentionally as a technique to allow the receiver to get themselves open. I legitimately wondered on a few throws if that was what Peyton was doing, or if he just lacked the arm strength to get it further down the field as necessary. Let's just politely say that his accuracy left a bit to be desired...which is a lot more polite than saying his throws sucked. Either statement is pretty much true.
-Kudos to Wesley Woodyard for a tremendous interception near the end of the second quarter. Heck of a play by a guy who has made the team the past several years based largely on heart. I commend the effort while also saying that was quite an athletic display.
-So this Andre Johnson character is pretty good, eh?
-Have you ever taken a spoon out of the dishwasher right after it has finished it's cycle and then eaten ice cream with it? If so, you have a general idea of what Arian Foster was doing to the Broncos run defense. By the third quarter I was referring to the Texans first down plays as "the traditional five yard first down run." That is not a good thing if you're a Bronco fan.
-I will not be surprised if the Texans represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. That is a good team that plowed through the Broncos this afternoon.
-Lance Ball is not a legit NFL running back. If Willis McGahee is seriously hurt, that is a huge blow to the Broncos.
-The Broncos secondary is bad. We're seeing wideouts get behind them far too much lately. With the D-line not providing much pressure, they're even worse.
-Invesco can still get loud. On the third down play where Andre Johnson beat Champ Bailey to pretty much ice the contest, that stadium was rocking.
-I'm completely confused as to why Jim Leonhard is returning punts. Traditionally, teams like to have fast guys do that job, right? If everything breaks the Broncos way, it feels like Jim might be able to break one...for seven yards. You know how punting to Devin Hester puts the fear of God into your heart? This is the complete opposite. I'm not sure Jim could run back the kick to the house against a Pee-Wee football team.
-For Broncos fans looking for a silver lining to today's action...I give you the San Diego Chargers, who were eviscerated at home against the Falcons worse than the Broncos lost in Atlanta. Clearly, no one is running away with the AFC West...which is a bonus for Denver.
-Huge thanks to my brother Bruce for hooking me up with a ticket to today's game. Even though it was a loss, it's still good to hang with my brother...something I don't get to do nearly enough since he moved to Arizona.
-I leave you with a look ahead to next week. I'd like to remind any Broncos fans taking the Raiders lightly that the silver and black have a four game win streak in Denver going right now, including a 59-14 shellacking of the Donkeys in 2010. Since we haven't beaten them here since 2007, let's bring our A game to Invesco next week, shall we? I hate losing to this team above all other teams, let's put an end to that unsightly streak. Go Broncos!