The Denver Broncos rolled into Houston on Sunday and dismantled the playoff-bound Texans to the tune of 38-24. This victory advances the Broncos to a 5-8 record on the season with momentum in the form of a two-game winning streak and a potential franchise quarterback emerging.
Drew Lock is all anyone is talking about after snaring a victory in his first career start last week and continuing his development with a huge game on Sunday in Houston. Drew Lock completed 22 of 27 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns plus an interception. No other rookie quarterback had thrown for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns in their first career road start.
Lock was seemingly unstoppable in the first half, hitting nearly every throw and trusting his receivers to make plays while putting the ball in spots only they could get it. Lock’s weapons were on full display in the passing game after Noah Fant made a 48-yard catch and run, followed by a great catch-and-throw combo for a 14-yard touchdown to cap off the end of the first drive.
Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton both had quietly efficient games where four of Sutton’s five catches went for first downs, and Tim Patrick converted his two receptions into 50 yards of offense. It was nice to see DaeSean Hamilton get into the passing game and contribute, with two big first-down catches. Andrew Beck, Devontae Booker, and Royce Freeman gave Lock some checkdown routes out of the backfield for big plays.
Kareem Jackson had an incredible day from his safety position during his return to Houston, where he played his first nine years of his career. Jackson was the beneficiary of a Jeremiah Attaochu lateral after recovering a fumble and Jackson returned it for a touchdown. Jackson also made a handful of big first-down saving hits while posting an interception, 11 total tackles, and three passes defended.
The Broncos were spectacular in the first half, outscoring the Texans, 31-3. The offense moved the ball efficiently and the defense recorded stops and takeaways. The most concerning thing about this team all year has been that they refuse to play well in the second half.
The Broncos were outscored 21-7 in the second half as the only scoring drive was the opening drive of the third quarter. Their next four offensive drives ended with interception, punt, punt, and a game-ending kneel. All of that is totally fine if the defense is getting stops and the lead isn’t narrowing. However, the Texans’ second-half offensive drives ended in touchdown, touchdown, interception, touchdown, onside kick recovery, and hail mary interception.
While the team’s first-half heroics built a lead that was too big to overcome and the coaching staff was simply bleeding clock to end the game, the fact is that strategy is exactly what cost this team the Bears, Jaguars, Colts, and Vikings games. If the team is going to bleed clock to end the game, the running game needs to work and they need more success on third and short plays.
The Broncos won, and I’m being critical, but I had high hopes for this team from the start of the season by projecting a nine-win season. So, it’s frustrating when four losses this season were absolutely games the team should have won. Drew Lock looked great and the defense got turnovers, sacks, and played the game to the beat of the score. Here are some of the winners and losers this week.
Drew Lock – As previously mentioned, he did something no other rookie in the NFL had done. He’s 2-0 as a starter. He’s trusting his receivers, making plays with his legs, helping the offensive line, and has the confidence and courage to stand in the pocket and deliver strikes with his incredible arm strength. I am excited to see him end this season and excited to see what the Broncos surround him with in the upcoming draft.
Kareem Jackson – As mentioned, he had a monster showing in his homecoming game. Easily the Broncos’ best defender with highlight-reel plays all over the field in every aspect of the defense, he got to lay a monster hit on Deandre Hopkins.
Noah Fant – Fant had four catches for 113 yards and a touchdown for his second career 100-yard game. He made three great catches that saved Drew Lock from a few mistakes and added extra yards on three of his four receptions to elevate Lock’s passing numbers. Fant definitely had his issues early in the season with penalties, drops, and miscommunication, but his last five games have seen him garner 27 targets for 308 yards and two touchdowns. He left the game in the fourth quarter with a foot injury that’s being reported as minor, so he should be fine.
Jeremiah Attaochu – He’s played three games with the Broncos after they claimed him off of waivers from the Chargers, making standout plays in each game. Against the Texans, he recovered the Alexander Johnson forced fumble and had the vision and knowledge to hand off the ball to Kareem Jackson while being tackled to convert it into a touchdown. He also sacked one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the game twice, one of which was a big hit.
Offensive Line – For the second game in a row, the offensive line protected the quarterback and enabled him to make plays on the ground and through the air. Lock was sacked only once with seven quarterback hits. While there was one penalty by Garrett Bolles that negated a Phillip Lindsay touchdown reception, the Broncos scored three plays later, deeming the penalty irrelevant. Ja’Wuan James played the first half on an intentional play count and he looked impressive. Elijah Wilkerson played the second half and gave up a sack and had a holding penalty. Austin Schlottmann filled in at right guard for the injured Ronald Leary and played well enough.
Chris Harris, Jr. – Harris frequents on the losers list this season because expectations he’s set over the life of his career aren’t being met. He gave up a 19-yard completion on fourth-and-18 in the fourth quarter, he was the man that handed off Deandre Hopkins to an empty zone on the 43-yard touchdown reception, and it feels like plays are being made on him more than he’s making plays this season. The TV broadcast mentioned that only 44 passes had been attempted on him this season, but of those 44 catches, 29 had been completed. Statistically, teams aren’t throwing his way a ton (3.3 times per game), but when they do, they have a 66 percent completion percentage.
Runningbacks – Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined for 87 yards and two touchdowns. This seems like a solid day, except for the fact that they required 28 total touches for 87 yards (3.11 yards per touch). Personally, I haven’t felt that electric running style this season and the run game feels unsatisfactory. Lindsay’s longest run of the season is a 40-yard run. He has one 100-yard game, and the running backs average is 4.2 yards per carry this season.
Quarterback containment – Josh Allen cooked the Broncos, so it was only expected that Deshaun Watson would do the same. Watson ran six times for 44-yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked thrice and threw two interceptions. so the team did well to prevent him from turning the game but they routinely have shown an inability to keep quarterbacks in the pocket.
Rushing defense – They gave up 134 yards on the ground on only 22 carries (6.1 yards per carry). The Bills, Jaguars, and Texans all racked up crazy rushing totals on the Broncos this season. The team is so inconsistent when it comes to stopping the run.
Second half conservative nature – They lost the second half by a score of 21-7 with mistakes across the board. They missed an onside kick recovery, threw an interception, gave up three touchdowns, the running game didn’t take over, and the uptempo offense rattled the defense again in the second half. Luckily, the defense was able to come away with a couple takeaways and the offense was able to score on its first possession of the half, because if not, who knows if the Broncos would have blown another huge halftime lead.