Last week’s season opener against the Colts was bittersweet in several ways. The Texans didn’t win, but they also didn’t lose. Their defense managed to hold the Colts to just 3 points for the first 3 quarters. But they completely fell apart in the 4th quarter, with their offense unable to respond. This week, Denver is the heavy favorite in the Texans vs Broncos game. But can Houston use their experiences against the Colts to overcome the odds?
Why Did Last Week’s Game End in a Tie?
Last week’s game against the Colts was close until the end of the 1st half. Pumped up by a Matt Ryan interception and then a 33-yard defensive pass interference call, Davis Mills tossed a nice 16-yard TD to O.J. Howard with 2:37 to go before halftime.
After the break, Texans got the ball again and Mills immediately connected deep to Brandin Cooks for 42 yards. That drive led to a 43-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn. The Colts’ next drive was marred by penalties on both teams, and ended in a fumble recovered by the Texans. Another penalty pushed the Texans closer to the red zone, and they capitalized with a 22-yard TD pass from Mills to O.J. Howard again.
For 3 quarters of the game, the Texans’ defense held on. But as soon as the 4th quarter began, things started going downhill. The Colts started their drive with 14:45 left to go, and Matt Ryan rapidly hit 5 of 6 passes for 75 yards. He fortunately fizzled out, and they had to settle for a field goal. But just as Houston got the ball back, Mills was sacked and fumbled the ball. Back outside the end zone again, Jonathan Taylor ran it in for a TD.
The Texans were never able to respond after losing their footing at the start of the 4th quarter. Their final two drives were 5 and 3 plays respectively, and Mills was sacked two more times. Meanwhile, the Colts went on to score the game-tying TD off of a few nice Jonathan Taylor runs and a Matt Ryan TD pass.
Even though the Texans managed to hold on going into overtime, the Colts really should have won. They started in OT, and after struggling a bit Matt Ryan was able to get them down to the red zone again. But their kicker missed the 42-yard FG, extending the game. Given that he made a 45-yarder in the 1st quarter, the only reason the Colts didn’t win right then was luck.
Texans vs Broncos: Lessons from the Colts
Broncos’ Offense Compared to the Colts’
Without a doubt, the Texans faced an offensive onslaught last week. Matt Ryan threw 32/50 passes for 352 yards. Jonathan Taylor ran 31 times for 161 yards. And yet that massive yardage only landed them 20 points in the end. Russell Wilson was certainly a dangerous passer in Seattle, and there’s little reason to doubt he won’t continue that trend in Denver. Last week he went 29/42 for 340 yards against his old team.
But the Broncos are missing one major threat that only the Colts can claim to possess: Jonathan Taylor. There are a few RBs in the league who may have as much potential as JT, but none of them play in Denver. The Texans will still need to take Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III seriously. But there’s little risk of either of them racking up 161 yards.
One player to watch out for on the Broncos’ offense will be WR Jerry Jeudy. He caught their only TD last week, a whopping 67-yarder. His speed and large frame – 6’1 and 194 pounds – could enable him to trample Houston’s linebackers. But he also presents a great opportunity for rookie CB Derek Stingley Jr. to prove himself. If Stingley can match Jeudy’s speed and size with his own, they could be looking at another shutout attempt. Hopefully one they can hold on to for 4 quarters.
TE Albert Okwuegbunam could also present a challenge for the Texans. Although he didn’t get a lot yards against the Seahawks, he still caught 5 of 6 targets. But most tight ends aren’t really expected to rack up yards anyway. They just have to be reliable, short pass options in addition to decent blockers. So the Texans will need to keep a close eye on him in this week’s game.
Broncos’ Defense Compared to the Colts’
Although it’s still so early in the season, there were some notable differences in how these two defenses played in Week 1. The Colts landed 49 solo tackles, 5 for loss, and 3 sacks. Meanwhile the Broncos had 35 solo tackles, 3 for loss, and 2 sacks. Both defenses had a similar number of total tackles, with the Broncos getting more assisted tackles.
The Broncos’ defense seemed to use a less aggressive strategy than the Colts’, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s weaker. They also allowed 3 fewer points and 46 fewer yards in their loss. The more conservative approach – hanging back and using assisted tackles to shut receivers down – could spell trouble.
Fortunately for Houston, the Texans aren’t built for powerhouse football. They aren’t planning to go into Denver and make 40-yard passes left and right. Short passes and runs, just going for first downs but always looking for opportunities. That’s their bread and butter. A defense that allows them to make those plays but tries to limit their gains probably isn’t going to be as effective as a more aggressive defense.
Texans vs Broncos: How Should Houston Adjust?
Offensively, the Texans are going to need to get their RBs more involved. Dameon Pierce and Rex Burkhead both had some good runs against the Colts. But neither one of them was able to get consistent yards, often only just managing to get back to the line of scrimmage. But their passing game should be pretty well suited to overcoming Denver’s defense. TE O.J. Howard flashed in his debut with the Texans, so they should definitely keep feeding him targets this week.
Defensively, the Texans will have their work cut out for them if they can’t stop Russell Wilson. He can be notoriously difficult to contain, and if given the opportunity he can kill defenses with deep passes. While the Texans won’t have as much to fear from the running game, their pass rushers will need to be at their best. Wilson is also well-known for his ability to come back in the 2nd half after losing in the 1st. So hopefully the Texans’ defense can avoid starting a trend in this game.
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