The Texans knew that what ever top of the line performance the Broncos were capable of giving on Sunday, they were going to get it. Especially from Case Keenum, who played admirably despite the fact that the Houston defense stifled Denver’s high powered ground game, forcing the former Texan to make clutch plays.
The 4th and 8 conversion on the final drive seemed like a knife through the heart of a Houston team trying to hang on for a hard fought win. Ultimately, a missed 51-yard field goal proved the difference in a see-saw battle that saw the Texans win their sixth straight.
The day got started beautifully with a 75-yard drive including two big catches by new weapon Demaryius Thomas. It was almost surreal to see Thomas honored on the video board then go out and make plays for his new team.
Deshaun Watson was sharp early with two touchdown passes. The second was followed by a missed extra point that loomed large as the afternoon went on.
This was very much a kicking battle. Ka’imi Fairbairn’s missed PAT opened the door for Denver to win late. But Brandon McManus’ missed 62-yard try at the end of the first half enabled the Texans to go on a mini field goal drive of their own.
Fairbairn ended up making two pressure kicks, one at the end of the half and one in the fourth quarter to put Houston up for good, 19-17.
It was tremendous that Watson and the offense were able to play turnover free for the third straight game. The pass rush started to get to them but they did just enough to stake the Texans to a two point lead, letting the defense finish the job.
But Keenum was determined, converting two fourth downs on that final drive. Had McManus made the 51-yard attempt as time expired, we’d be talking about missed opportunities. But 51 yards is no chip shot, even in mile-high altitude.
With the Texans missing some key defenders, including leading tackler Zach Cunningham and Johnathan Joseph, holding Denver to 17 points was commendable. And the offense, while not explosive, found ways to move the ball when it had to.
Now comes the bye. Bodies need to heal and the next outing could see the return of some key contributors. Momentum is on the side of the Texans. Sometimes you want to see a team keep playing. But it’s good this team gets a break to get some players back and get Thomas fully up to speed.
The best is yet to come.