David Anderson exulted after his 16-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
In the process of clinching a last-second 19-16 win over the Denver Broncos Saturday night in the preseason opener, the Texans made two key discoveries.
First off, wide receiver David Anderson has become a go-to ffensive weapon after finishing with a game-high six catches for 67 yards (11.2 avg.) and one touchdown. Many of his catches were in traffic, and his quickness after the catch is apparent.
Second of all, kicker Kris Brown continues to show a consistent and clutch leg from anywhere inside opposing territory after converting each of his four field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder and the game-winning 25-yard try as time expired.
"It's probably the best thing we did tonight," coach Gary Kubiak said of Brown's kicking. "Kris is just something. I'll tell you this, you got an 80-man roster, which is what we all deal with now so it's different. We decided as an organization to rely on our kickers, we trust them, they work. We came with two guys and they have been excellent and tonight has let you know that."
Aside from those developments, the 70,020 fans in attendance at Reliant Stadium were treated to a fine all-around effort from rookie running back Steve Slaton.
The third-round draft pick from West Virginia showed a burst off the edge that helped him gain a team-high 37 rushing yards and another 97 yards on four kick returns.
"He looked really good early," Kubiak said of Slaton. "His first five touches he looked faster than everybody else on the field and that's what we thought we got. He can't bounce the ball too much in this league or you're going to lose some ground, especially there at the end of the game. I think it was a good start for him. He's got more speed than anyone else."
The Texans may need Slaton's contributions more than they anticipated after running back Ahman Green suffered a strained right groin on his first carry of the game. The four-time Pro Bowler never returned to the game.
"I just felt a little tug, a little tightness," Green said. "When I caught the ball and turned around and exploded, that's when I felt it. It doesn't feel bad. It's just a little sore. I still have a lot of strength, so I'm not really concerned about it. I got a lot of time to get better."
Later in the opening series, wide receiver André Davis put the Texans into scoring range thanks to a 12-yard end around and a nine-yard catch to the Denver 24.
After a 10-minute pause in the action after Broncos linebacker Louis Green was carted off the field with a neck injury, running back Chris Taylor picked up four yards to the eight-yard line. Two plays later, Brown hit a 23-yard field goal to give Houston a 3-0 lead with 7:05 left in the first quarter.
The Broncos responded with a 12-play, 74-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Jay Cutler completed seven passes for 59 yards on the series and scrambled 15 yards off the left tackle for a touchdown to put Denver ahead 7-3 with 56 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Quarterback Sage Rosenfels replaced Matt Schaub on the Texans' third possession. A 13-yard catch by fullback Vonta Leach gave the Texans a first down at their 42-yard line. Later, Rosenfels completed a 16-yard pass to wide receiver Tim Carter and an 11-yard throw to Anderson.
Following consecutive incompletions, Brown attempted a 52-yard field goal that cut Denver's lead to 7-6 with 11:59 before halftime.
The Texans' offense returned to the field less than two minutes later when former Broncos safety Nick Ferguson picked off Patrick Ramsey's pass intended for wide receiver Keary Colbert. After a 30-yard return to the Denver 26, Anderson hauled in a 16-yard touchdown while falling out of bounds to give the Texans a 13-7 lead.
After Broncos kicker Matt Prater's 30-yard field goal attempt missed wide right, the Texans utilized their two-minute offense to move near midfield after Anderson's 14-yard grab at the right hash mark. Two plays later, cornerback Christian Morton leveled Rosenfels, causing a fumble that Taylor recovered for no gain.
Punter Matt Turk faked the ensuing punt attempt and ran 16 yards for a first down to keep the offense on the field, but Denver challenged the spot of the ball and the officials reversed the call, giving the Broncos the ball at the Houston 49 with 42 seconds on the game clock.
Consecutive offensive holding penalties on Denver led to a final pass attempt by Ramsey, who was picked off by cornerback Jamar Fletcher at the Texans' five-yard line. Fletcher lateraled the ball to DeMarcus Faggins, who zigzagged his way to the Houston 39 before being tackled with no time left on the game clock.
Anderson continued to stand out in the third quarter with two receptions for 25 total yards on the Texans' opening drive. Later, Rosenfels unloaded a tight spiral off a play-action fake to a sprinting Jacoby Jones, who caught the 41-yard pass while falling out of bounds at the Broncos' nine-yard line.
After the drive stalled at the five-yard line, Brown's 23-yard field goal capped the 10-play, 76-yard drive over 5:21 to stretch the lead to 16-7 with 9:39 left in the third quarter.
The Texans forced the Broncos' second punt of the game on the next possession, but Jones fumbled on his return after criss-crossing the field and dropping the ball for a five-yard loss at the Houston 24.
After gaining four yards in four plays, Prater hit a 38-yard field goal. Minutes later, he nailed a 39-yard field goal after Denver stuffed quarterback Shane Boyd's fourth down attempt near midfield.
Leading 16-13 early in the fourth quarter, the Texans marched to their 49-yard line before Slaton was stopped short on a third down pass play.
The Broncos kept their momentum going and tied the game after cornerback Derrick Roberson was called for pass interference, moving Denver 27 yards to the Texans' three-yard line. Prater's 26-yard field goal made the score 16-16 with 5:50 remaining in the contest.
Slaton's 39-yard kickoff return put the Texans in great field position. A defensive holding penalty on Denver moved Houston to the Broncos' 49-yard line, whereBoyd scrambled for 11 yards out of bounds. Wide receiver LeRon McCoy's nine-yard catch helped set up Slaton's 13-yard run to the Denver 14 with 2:30 on the game clock.
On the first play after the two-minute warning, fullback Jameel Cook caught a pass in the flat, then stumbled and rolled his way to a first down at the three-yard line. The Texans ran three plays before stopping the clock with three seconds remaining to set up Brown's game-winner.