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Texans beat Broncos 31-13


Sage Rosenfels and Andre Johnson already have connected on several passes.


Gary Kubiak got the best of his mentor.

More importantly, the Texans collected their team-record tying seventh win of the season Thursday night in a 31-13 victory over the Denver Broncos in front of 70,747 fans at Reliant Stadium.

A national audience on NFL Network also witnessed the Battle Red Day win, not to mention defensive end Mario Williams' coming-out party. The top pick in the 2006 draft continued his late-season rampage with a game-high 3.5 sacks to give him 13 sacks on the season. That total leads the AFC and is second only to Seattle Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney's 13.5 sacks.

"I know this kid is a tremendous football player," Kubiak said. "He's a great young man. He keeps working. I'm just happy that good things keep coming his way."

The story didn't end with Williams, though. Quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who is 3-0 as a starter this season, delivered a composed performance to finish with 200 passing yards to go along with a five-yard touchdown run and four-yard touchdown pass.

Wide receiver Andre Johnson was on the receiving end of six of those passes for 86 receiving yards. His touchdown catch with 10:06 left in the game extended the Texans' lead to 24-13. His 28-yard reception to the Broncos' one-yard line set up the game's final touchdown in the fourth quarter.

With running back Ron Dayne nursing a sore ankle, rookie Darius Walker got the start and finished with a career-high 66 rushing yards on 13 carries (5.1 avg.). Dayne chipped in with a game-high 67 yards on 11 carries, including a six-yard touchdown run.

The win gives Kubiak and quarterbacks coach Kyle Shanahan bragging rights over Shanahan's father, Mike, who is the head coach of the Broncos. Kubiak, who coached with Mike Shanahan for many years in Denver, deflected attention from the subject after the game, but it was obvious that the game had added significance to him.

"It's not about me," Kubiak said. "I just told the players it's about them. I've been a player before and I know how hard those kids are working. There was a big deal made out of where I came from and who we were playing tonight, and that makes for good talk, but it's about those players."

Rosenfels came out firing from the start, completing his first four passes for 45 yards, including two passes to Johnson for 34 yards. Rosenfels capped the seven-play series with a five-yard touchdown run on a bootleg.

{QUOTE}Rookie running back Selvin Young, a Houston native, gained 20 yards on his first carry to put the Broncos into Houston territory. On third-and-14 from the Texans' 35-yard line, safety Will Demps and cornerback Jamar Fletcher broke up Jay Cutler's pass intended for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Jason Elam lined up for a 53-yard field goal, but instead punted to the four-yard line.

A 15-yard pass to tight end Owen Daniels on third down dug Houston out of its red zone. Three plays later, Rosenfels faked a handoff to Walker and threw a dart to wide receiver Kevin Walter, who picked up 13 yards and a first down. After Rosenfels' third down pass was broken up, Matt Turk punted 44 yards to the Broncos' seven-yard line, where Texans wide receiver André Davis downed the ball.

After Williams' sack for a three-yard loss on the ensuing series, Cutler completed a 13-yard pass to Marshall on third-and-eight from the Houston 37 to keep the drive alive. On third-and-20 from the Houston 23, Demps stepped in front of Cutler's pass intended for tight end Tony Scheffler in the end zone, setting up Elam's 41-yard field goal that made the score 7-3 with 8:49 left in the first half.

Davis, the Week 14 AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, returned the following kickoff 50 yards to give the Texans' offense field position at the Denver 43. A 20-yard pass to Davis on first down put the Texans in scoring range. On third-and-10 at the Broncos' 23-yard line, Rosenfels' pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage, forcing a 41-yard field goal that Kris Brown nailed to give the Texans a 10-3 lead.

Marshall made three catches for 43 yards on the following possession, but the Broncos punted after Fletcher deflected a pass intended for Marshall in the end zone on third down. Elam's 47-yard field goal cut the Texans' lead to 10-6 with 4:31 before halftime.

Williams helped end the Broncos' opening drive of the second half after sacking Cutler for a four-yard loss on third-and-three at the Houston 34. With fans chanting his name, Williams applied pressure on fourth down, and linebacker Morlon Greenwood tackled Young short of the first down marker to give the Texans' offense possession on their 34-yard line.

A career-long 29-yard catch by Daniels set up the Texans' offense on the Denver 11. After a five-yard penalty on the Broncos for having 12 men on the field, Dayne plowed his way into the end zone for a six-yard touchdown. Brown's extra point made the score 17-6 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.

The Texans' defense continued to deliver crucial stops as Denver drove into their territory. Bennett deflected a pass intended for Marshall on third-and-10 from the Houston 35. On the following play, Demps blitzed to force another Cutler incompletion.

The Broncos fought back with their first takeaway of the game when Rosenfels' play action pass intended for Johnson was deflected by safety John Lynch and then picked off by cornerback Dre By, who returned the interception 37 yards to the Houston 27. A flag was thrown on the play, but officials determined there was no defensive pass interference prior to the turnover.

On the third play of the series, Cutler found Scheffler open for a 12-yard touchdown, but linebacker DeMeco Ryans knocked the ball loose as Scheffler extended the ball over the goal line. Demps recovered the fumble, but officials signaled the play dead and called a touchdown. Kubiak challenged the ruling on the field, but the play stood after officials ruled that the ball broke the plane of the goal line.

Rosenfels bounced back with a 25-yard completion to Walter. Dayne's 13-yard run on the next snap gave the Texans a first down at the Denver 29. Then, Walker's 14-yard cut-back run gave Houston excellent field position after a five-yard face mask penalty on the play. On third-and-goal at the four-yard line, Rosenfels passed to Johnson, who powered his way into the end zone behind a key block by Davis. The extra point made the score 24-13 with 10:06 left in the game.

Williams forced another Broncos' punt when he sacked Cutler for the third time of the game for a four-yard loss on third-and-five from the Denver 37. After the tackle, Williams jumped up and did a hula dance to the delight of the crowd.

"(The dance) came from Travis Johnson, just to let everyone know," Williams said. "Travis told me to do the hula - the Hawaiian dance. I tried to do it, but Earl Cochran jumped on my back and messed it up. I was just having fun. I was glad I was in a position where I could do it."

Buoyed by the sack, the Texans' offense started to pound the ball. Dayne's 25-yard gain was followed by two rushes for 12 yards by Walker. Rosenfels executed a flawless play action fake a few plays later to hit Johnson in stride to the Broncos' one-yard line. Two plays later, fullback Vunta Leach powered his way into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown to help extend the Texans' lead to 31-13 with 3:20 left in the contest.

On Denver's final drive, Williams shared a sack with defensive end N.D. Kalu after bringing down Cutler for a six-yard loss at the Denver 47 with less than two minutes left in the game.

The Texans (7-7) face the Indianapolis Colts Dec. 23 at the RCA Dome in their last road game of the season.

"I think we still have something else to do," Kubiak said of the 2007 season. "I told the kids a while ago that our football team is 60 minutes from being able to say we're a winning team, to have the season that is a winning season. That's a huge step."

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