The deep and talented secondary of Houston ended up being the key factor in their 14-10 loss at the hands of the Denver Broncos last night in NRG Stadium. Cornerbacks Darryl Morris and A.J. Bouye gave up the only two Bronco touchdowns in the contest. Bouye was burned deep on a go route by Broncos wide receiver Andre Caldwell and the lapse in coverage resulted in a 57 yard touchdown pass.
That opened up the scoring for the night, as both teams’ defenses stepped up and held each other scoreless through the first quarter and the better part of the second frame.
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There was an encouraging sign, as the Texan’s started rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson, and he came up with a huge 3rd down pass breakup on the first series of the game, and it was against the Broncos’ top receiver Demaryius Thomas. He was playing off-coverage and shot out of a cannon to come forward on the stop route to lay a hit on Thomas and jar the ball loose to force a punt. It was a veteran-savvy play that was executed to perfection by the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. It’s kind of scary knowing that the Texans don’t even have to play him yet, as their secondary field of talent is almost literally ocean deep.
The “starting” defense did well overall, limiting Peyton Manning to a meager 52 yards passing through more than a full quarter of action and zero scores. This was without J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, Jadeveon Clowney, and Johnathan Joseph seeing any playing time.
A glaringly obvious need for this Houston team is offensive line depth, as the backups didn’t perform exceptionally well all game. They struggled once again in red zone situations and short yardage conversion scenarios. If they can correct those issues before the regular season begins, I’ll feel much more comfortable about the offense’s long term chances this season.
The offense was set up in prime position to score, and they used all four downs from inside the 3 yard line to no avail. A short 1 yard gain on a run, then 3 subsequent incomplete passes by quarterback Tom Savage ended the drive on the 2 yard line.
The offense could only muster up one field goal for the entire game, and it was the defense who posted the Texans lone touchdown.
It came in the latter stages of the 3rd quarter; the Broncos were driving and looking to put more points up on the board. Enter Kourtnei Brown, a perennial practice squad player that has bounced around to numerous teams before finally showing out this preseason with the Texans. Brown tallied two sacks in limited action last week against the 49ers, and then came up huge this week with a 69 yard interception return for a touchdown to take the lead. The Texans’ coaching staff with have trouble cutting him from this squad if he continues at this pace.
Where the offense truly struggles, the defense seems to thrive. In short yardage situations last night the Texans offense failed to convert the majority of attempts, but on the other hand, the Texans defense consistently stopped the Broncos attack on short yardage situations.
Overall, it seems the quarterback situation will remain the same and stay in square one. Neither Mallett or Hoyer distanced themselves in this competition, and they only have two weeks left to make their mark on head coach Bill O’Brien to convince him they should start come week one.
It will be exciting to see what the Texans can do next week as they travel to New Orleans in a southern showdown against the Saints.