HOUSTON -- As he tapped both feet down in-bounds along the sideline with the ball clenched in his grasp, safety Mike Adams didn't just gain possession back for his team when he intercepted Texans quarterback Matt Schaub with 14:11 remaining in the game.
He made arguably the defining play of the Broncos' 37-13 win over the Texans.
"Mike Adams' interception, in my opinion, was the play of the day today," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "We were in a little rut on kind of both sides of the ball and that really springboarded the whole team. I'm certainly, really appreciative of it."
On a day that also saw Manning throw his NFL record-breaking 51st touchdown of the season, it's a statement that speaks volumes about the importance of Adams' play.
With the Broncos holding a narrow 16-13 lead, the interception stifled a drive that could have tied the game or given the Texans the lead.
It also spurred 21 unanswered points that lifted the Broncos to their 12th victory of the season and the team's third-consecutive AFC West title.
And, as his teammates were quick to point out, it was nothing short of a fourth-quarter catalyst for the Broncos.
"It changed the entire game," tight end Julius Thomas said. "What he was able to do, getting us the ball in their part of the field gave us a great opportunity to score. Huge play by our defense."
"In that situation in the game, that close of a game, it's huge for us," guard Zane Beadles added. "You could definitely feel the momentum turn."
Adams noted that he read Schaub's eyes before jumping the route and hauling in the interception at the Texans' 28-yard line.
"The receiver was running a wheel route and stopped, and I was fortunate enough to read the quarterback's eyes and I jumped it," Adams said. "That definitely was a game-changer, and we started getting things rolling from there."
Two plays later, Manning tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Decker, extending the Broncos' lead to 26-16 and igniting Denver's offensive outpouring to close the game.
And it all started with Adams' interception.
"He made a great play to keep his feet in and everything," running back Knowshon Moreno said. "Giving the ball back to us very close to their territory, in the red zone. Once he did that, it was time to try to put some points on the board."
After a third quarter where the Broncos managed just 10 yards of total offense and did not gain a single third down – and where the Texans scored a third quarter touchdown to narrow the margin to 3 – the play gave the Broncos momentum that they would never cede the rest of the game.
"That is what football is about," defensive end Shaun Phillips said. "All games are going to be roller coasters. There is going to be good, bad and ugly. Mike made a play, kept us going and energized the team a bit. And we went out there and played."
"On defense, we needed to make some plays. And Mike Adams got us started," cornerback Champ Bailey added. "When he got that pick, things just turned up from there. There was no looking back."
And the turnover also came at the perfect time for a defense looking to play its best football on the verge of the postseason.
"It's definitely huge," Adams said. "We want to peak at the right time. I think that's what we're doing. Today was a great step to where we want to be, but we're still not where we want to be yet. It will be good going into next week and then playing into next season, which is the playoffs."