Like a ghost of the Texans' past, Peyton Manning came back to haunt Houston with a record-breaking day that added insult to this injurious season.
The Texans hung around for a while, showing life and cutting the Denver lead to three on an 'as-good-as-ever' Matt Schaub to Keshawn Martin TD pass in the third quarter.
But Schaub 'Scrooged' a later drive with a pick at the Houston 28 yard line which Manning quickly turned into a touchdown that put the deficit at double figures.
This was Schaub's first start in over two months. He had gotten into the Raiders game and the Jacksonville game on the road and moved the team. Against the Broncos, he had trouble getting the squad rolling as Houston had to rely heavily on its third string tight end and three running backs that weren't in the Reliant Stadium zip code on opening day.
Still, it seemed like things should have gone at least a tad better on offense today. The defense surrendered 16 points by half time but stiffened with a shut-out third quarter. Then Manning capitalized after the turnover and two more short fields to put up three more touchdown and enter the record books with an NFL single season best - 51 touchdown passes.
After the game, Schaub fielded questions on whether this was his last Reliant Stadium game as a Texan. The era is about to change as Houston has bottomed out and shut the window on a once-promising combination of coach, quarterback and supporting cast.
Fans jammed Budweiser Plaza for a post game fan appreciation party. Two years ago, we stood in the same area, celebrating an AFC South Championship. Now we wait and hope to be able to do that again soon. We don't know who the coach is going to be or what systems he favors on offense and defense. There are several, if not many current players who won't make the jump into the next era.
For the first time since 2010, we know what will be the last game of the season. Next week's date with the arch rival Titans will bring down the curtain on the most devastating and perplexing season this young franchise has ever known. The healing won't happen overnight. And it can't start soon enough.