DENVER — For a little more than three quarters, the Broncos struggled to find the end zone.
In two goal-to-go scenarios, Denver was unable to punch the ball in for a touchdown — and the Broncos found themselves trailing 9-6 as they entered the fourth quarter.
In their home opener, though, the Broncos (1-1) would not be denied. Denver's defense held strong and limited the Texans to field goals, and the Broncos' offense at last put together a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter to earn a 16-9 win.
Quarterback Russell Wilson threw his first touchdown at Empower Field at Mile High as a Bronco when he found tight end Eric Saubert for the go-ahead strike with just under 13 minutes to play.
Following the go-ahead touchdown, the Broncos found some breathing room with a field goal late in the fourth quarter. The defense then held on facing a pair of late Davis Mills-led drives from the Texans. In the process, the Broncos survived more than a dozen penalties and injuries to key starters in Pat Surtain II and Jerry Jeudy to improve to 1-1.
These are the players and plays that led to the Broncos' season-opening win:
The Broncos' offense struggled for the better part of the game, but a third-and-15 pass from Wilson to Courtland Sutton gave the Broncos the chance they needed. Sutton was left open down the seam on the left side of the field, and Wilson hit him for a 35-yard gain. Three plays later, Wilson delivered his strike to Saubert.
Of course, the Broncos' defense also made several key stops, including a third-quarter stand inside the 10-yard line that limited Houston to a field goal.
The aforementioned defensive performance was critical as the Broncos' offense looked to find its footing. The Denver defense gave up just nine points on 10 Houston possessions, excluding kneeldowns. The Broncos forced three three-and-outs, including one that helped set up Denver's critical touchdown drive. Without a strong performance from the defense — which included two sacks from Dre'Mont Jones — the Broncos may not have been in position to earn the win.
Saubert's second career touchdown with the Broncos was critical, and it was an impressive play. With a defender on him, Saubert made a leaping grab to secure the Broncos' lone touchdown of the game.
"[It was a] seam-route, got the edge on my defender," Saubert said. "'Russ threw it up — it's kind of a trust throw — and went up and got it. It's as simple as that. Just executing when you get a chance."
Dre'Mont Jones keyed the Broncos' defensive performance with a pair of sacks, including a strip-sack.
Courtland Sutton posted the fifth 100-yard game of his career and his first since Week 5 of 2021. He led the team in receptions and receiving yards as the Broncos survived the loss of Jeudy.
Javonte Williams averaged more than six yards per carry, as he helped the Broncos find success on the ground. He also went over the 1,000 yard rushing mark for his career.
Randy Gregory added a critical strip-sack and big quarterback hit late in the game and posted a tackle for loss earlier in the contest.