*DENVER, Colo. -- The Houston Texans came into INVESCO Field at Mile High searching for a third consecutive win of the season. The Texans instead fell to 4-4 against a Denver Broncos squad hungry for a home victory after dropping back-to-back games. Denver improved its record to 6-3 after pleasing 71,764 fans with a commanding 31-13 win.
Texans RB Domanick Davis scored Houston's two touchdowns and finished the day with 71 yards on the ground. Denver's defense limited Andre Johnson to just three catches for 28 yards while receivers Jabar Gaffney and Derick Armstrong both finished with six catches for 86 and 84 yards respectively.
Broncos passer Jake Plummer finished the day completing 16 of 24 passes for 234 yards, four touchdowns and a 137.8 passer rating while RB Reuben Droughns led the way on the ground with 120 rushing yards.
Texans QB David Carr completed 22 of 41 passes and found seven different receivers for 245 yards.
Houston was able to generate 331 yards of total offense to the Broncos 364, but nine penalties totaling 109 yards put a big damper in the Texans efforts.
The Texans won the coin toss and immediately began to make their way into scoring range as they looked to make a quick and potent start. Carr found WR Corey Bradford for a five-yard pickup. With pressure from the Broncos defense, Carr scrambled out of the pocket and hit Gaffney on the run for a 13-yard competion and first down.
At midfield, the Texans continued to plod forward as Carr found Gaffney for another six-yard gain and then hit FB Moran Norris and Johnson to reach the Denver 19. The drive stalled and K Kris Brown came in for a 37-yard attempt. Brown's kick sailed wide right and the Broncos offense took over.
The Texans defense forced the Broncos three-and-out on their first offensive possession. Houston's offense re-gained the ball but punted almost just as quickly. Chad Stanely came in for punting duty and sailed a 55-yarder deep into Brocons territory, allowing Tony Hollings to down the ball at the one-yard line.
With 99 yards ahead to chew, Denver's offense got right to work. Droughns got the ball rolling with runs of nine and six yards. Texans CB Aaron Glenn was called two plays later for a pass interference call while covering receiver Ashely Lelie, pushing the Broncos into Texans territory at the 48. RB Garrison Hearst inched the unit closer to the goal line, adding seven yards on two carries. Two plays later, Plummer found Putzier down the left sideline for a 34-yard scoring strike to put the Broncos ahead 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Texans reached midfield on the ensuing drive but and on 4th and 1sent Carr on a quarterback sneak to pick up a first. But Carr wasn't able to punch through the pile far enough to move the chains, handing the ball back to Denver's offense at the 50.
The Broncos ate a little over three minutes on the play clock and were able to reach Houston's 34-yard line, a good enough spot to attempt a 52-yard field goal. Elam's kick split the uprights and the Broncos extended their lead 10-0.
Looking to close the scoring gap, the Texans offense re-appeared with a sense of urgency. Carr found Gaffney for a 28-yard reception on the first play of the drive. But Carr was sacked on two of the next three snaps and Houston was forced to punt back to Denver's hot offensive unit.
The Texans defense was determined to stop the Broncos efforts. Droughns was only able to churn out runs of one and two yards before Texans DT Seth Payne pummeled Plummer for a nine-yard loss, sending out the Broncos punt team.
Houston LB Antwan Peek came off of the punt snap with lightning speed, blocking Micah Knorr's kick, the third blocked punt in Texans history. Jonathan Wells scooped up the ball and rambled to the one-yard line. Davis punched the ball in on the Texans first try to make the score 10-7 still in favor of Denver.
The Broncos offense refused to let the momentum swing out of their favor and set the end zone in sight again. Droughns picked up 20 yards on four carries before Plummer sailed a 40-yard spiral down the sideline to Lelie, extending Denver's lead 17-7 with under two minutes remaining in the half.
Houston's offense wasn't able to muster enough first downs to keep the ensuing drive alive and the Broncos offense had another chance to widen the scoring gap.
It took just 53 seconds for Denver's scoring unit to march 53 yards over the goal line again. Plummer found Putzier for 14 yards in the air and continued the passing strike with a 15-yard pass to TE Dwayne Carswell and an 11-yarder to Lelie. Three plays later, Plummer found an open Rod Smith in the back corner of the end zone for a commanding 24-7 lead at halftime.
Denver kicked off the second half of play with a bang. Plummer found FB Kyle Johnson on the opening drive for a 23-yard scoring strike to seal the Broncos 80-yard, seven-play run and extend the lead 31-7.
Houston punted on their next possession and the Texans defense took the field for the second time in the third quarter.
Droughns paved the way, running six times for 28 yards, but the Texans defense was able to hold strong to bring out the Broncos punt team. But Carr and company went three-and-out to turn the ball back over to Denver.
The Broncos were able to enter into field goal range, but a holding call on Broncos Patrick Hape negated Elam's 46-yard field goal and Denver punted to Houston instead.
Carr unleashed a 44-yard pass to Armstrong on the initial play of the drive, the longest reception of Armstrong's career. From the Denver 36, Davis was able to chip in runs of two and nine yards before Carr surged forward on 4th and 1 for a first down. Two plays later, Davis punched in his second touchdown of a day, a one-yarder to add another six to Houston's scoring total. Carr looked for Gaffney in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion but the pass fell incomplete to make the score 31-13 in Denver's favor.
The Texans defense was able to hold the Broncos on the ensuing drive but with just under four minutes remaining in the game, the Texans offense sputtered and Stanley punted back to the Broncos with the two-minute warning drawing close.
The Texans got the ball back with under two minutes remaining but couldn't convert on their final effort and Denver sealed a 31-13 win heading into the team's bye weekend.
Houston is now one game behind Jacksonville in the AFC South and will look to bounce back next week on the road against division foe Indianpolis at noon in the RCA Dome.