This week the Texans discussed what it would take to get a win on Sunday against Denver.
1. Pressure Peyton
Peyton Manning currently leads the NFL in nearly every major passing category. With Manning, the Broncos offense ranks first in the NFL in:
- Points per game (38.2)
- Net yards per game (453.4)
- Yards per play (6.3)
- Red zone TD percentage (78.3 percent) "I think the pass rush is going to be the key," interim head coach Wade Phillips said. "How much pressure you can get on a guy. You know, they have a good offensive line. He throws it quickly a lot, but sometimes he just holds the ball back there until somebody gets open and then he finds them."
"You've got to get him to get the ball out quick, get him down and sack him a few times or what not," Whitney Mercilus said. "Watching the film, that's what a lot of teams did and, every time they were able to get there, they were able to disrupt route patterns and things like that."
2. Putting the reins on Bronco receivers
What makes Denver such an offensive powerhouse is its abundance of weapons. The Broncos have four players with 8-plus receiving touchdowns this season: Demaryius Thomas (11), Julius Thomas (11), Wes Welker (10), Eric Decker (8).
With so many options, Manning excels at exposing matchups. Phillips hopes to show Manning a mix of zone and man coverage, to challenge him.
"He does a good job of keeping you off pace and things like that, making you cover the whole field, so you just can't single in on one guy," Johnathan Joseph said. "They've got players over there as well so they're going to make some plays, but for us we just have to make them work for everything that they get, and don't give up the big play, and don't give them cheap plays and things like that."
3. Stop with the penalties
Penalties have been a regular on the To-Do list, especially since reaching an all-time high 28 over the past two weeks. Surprisingly, the (11-3) Broncos and the (2-12) Texans both have 103 penalties on the season. Houston has been penalized for 149 more yards than Denver.
For the second-consecutive week, referees have officiated practice to eliminate mistakes. Players who were flagged with a penalty had to sit out for part of practice. Overall, Phillips felt the team was sharper this week.
"I'm harping on it with the coaches in the meetings to just over-emphasize anything that we see that might be a penalty," Phillips said. "I do know that the most penalized team in the league is Seattle who has the best record in the league and I know the Broncos are exactly tied with us as far as number of penalties. So you can overcome penalties. There are some things that you don't overcome well and can't win by having too many penalties."
4. The return of #8
Sunday marks Matt Schaub's return as a starter for the first time since October 13 against St. Louis. After throwing nine touchdowns and ten interceptions this season, Schaub is looking forward to getting a chance to help break the 12-game losing streak.
"I told him, 'Fresh arm and fresh leg,'" Phillips said of his conversation this week with Schaub. "Like I've said, he's a consummate professional. We know Matt. We know he'll work hard at what he does and he's going to give us his best effort. And we're going to support him."
Schaub, the only quarterback one the roster who has played against Manning, threw four touchdown passes in the Texans 31-25 win in Denver. On Sunday, the Texans hope to repeat what worked well last time.
"We just made some big plays," Schaub said. "We came out throwing. We had some good plays in the running game, but our guys protected against a very good pass rush, and made some big plays. We've got to go find a way to do that again."