Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Zalubowski/AP/Shutterstock (13400614an) Houston Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) intercepts a ball intended for Denver Broncos wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (16) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Denver Texans Broncos Football, Denver, United States – 18 Sep 2022
Once again, the offense bogged down in the fourth quarter, and the defense’s effort was wasted.
The Houston Texans could not capitalize on a subpar game from Russell Wilson and come up short in Denver, losing to the Broncos 16-9.
Neither offense started well. Houston was three and out on their first drive; the Broncos’ first drive lasted six plays before they were forced to punt. Houston picked up only 16 yards on their next possession before needing to punt again.
The Broncos would start their next drive at their own 35. They would go eight plays and 63 yards, aided by a second defensive pass interference penalty against Derek Stingley Jr. The Texans’ defense would hold firm on Goal to Go from the two and force Denver to settle for a 20-yard Brandon McManus FG for a 3-0 lead.
The Texans would respond immediately with their own ten-play, 54-yard drive, and Ka’imi Fairbairn would connect from 40 yards to tie the game at 3.
The Texans would hold the Broncos to only 26 yards on the next drive and force a punt before another ten-play, 54-yard drive that would lead to another Fairbairn FG, this one from 44 yards giving the Texans a 6-3 lead.
After the teams traded punts, the Broncos put together a late drive of 9 plays and 70 yards. The Texans’ defense once again found itself in a Goal to Go situation but held firm and forced another Broncos FG attempt. McManus connected from 24 yards to tie the game at 6 with :20 to go before the half.
The Texans would force the game’s only turnover on the Broncos’ first possession of the second half. Christian Kirksey stole the ball from Courtland Sutton as they went to the ground to give the Texans the ball at the Broncos’ 45.
The Texans would go 11 plays and 39 yards, settling for a 24-yard field goal by Fairbairn to take a 9-6 lead with close to 8 and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Each team would trade punts before the Broncos would drive for the game’s only touchdown. Denver would go six plays and 62 yards, buoyed by a 35-yard pass from Wilson to Sutton on a play where Derek Stingley got turned around twice. Wilson then hit Saubert for a 22-yard touchdown. McManus’ XP was good, and the Broncos took a 13-9 lead.
Houston’s next drive lasted five plays before they had to punt again, and the Broncos would drive 12 plays and 54 yards ending in a 50-yard McManus field goal to extend the lead to 16-9 with 3:36 remaining in the 4th quarter.
The Texans would open their next drive with two chunk plays, a 20-yard pass to Nico Collins and a 23-yard connection with Brandin Cooks to get to the Denver 32. Then Randy Gregory blew through Texans RG AJ Cann to knock the ball away from Mills. Cann recovered, but they lost 9 yards on the play and were knocked out of field goal range to the Broncos’ 41. After a short gain, Mills misfired low to Cooks and then on 4th and 15 sailed a pass well over the head of Collins for a turnover on downs.
The Texans would force the Broncos into a 3 & out that only took :29 seconds off the clock, getting the ball back one last time for a chance to score, but the offense couldn’t move the ball.
Houston lost a yard on first down before three incompletions sealed the game for Denver.
Dameon Pierce finished the game with 15 carries for 69 yards, averaging a respectable 4.6 YPC. The Texans, in a one-score game the entire way, only called running plays 16 times, with backup QB Jeff Driskel getting one carry that resulted in a first down. Rex Burkhead did not have a carry.
Davis Mills had a difficult afternoon, finishing 19/38 for 177 yards.
The Texans will travel to Chicago to take on the Bears Sunday, September 25. Kickoff is set for noon central.