ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **With a cool autumn nip in the air, the Broncos put on their helmets and shells and began full-scale Texans prep work Thursday.
1. SIEMIAN DOING "MUCH BETTER"
When Kubiak watched quarterback Trevor Siemian last week, he saw a quarterback who appeared compromised in his delivery by the sprained left shoulder he suffered 11 days earlier against the Buccaneers.
"Watching him turn a few balls loose, he didn't rotate the way he normally does," Kubiak said. "But he's had some good time on his hands, [and] you can see a difference."
Added Siemian: "I feel like I made some strides over the last couple of days."
"We knew it was going to take a little time for him to get back to himself," Kubiak added. "He looks like himself."
Siemian also indicated that the lack of deep passes last week was more of a reaction to the downfield coverage of the Chargers than any limitations he had because of the injury.
"You want to," he said when asked whether he wanted to throw deep more often. "But you have to play within the confines of the offense and the defense, what they're giving you.
"Looking back last week, heck, I would have wanted to throw it 50, 60 yards down the field, but when they've got guys back there over the top, kind of like an umbrella, you're not going to do that and look good."
2. EXECUTION KEY TO OPTIMIZING GROUND GAME
"Our whole thing, our preparation this week is just execution [and] definitely playing harder," running back C.J. Anderson said.
Execution is a root cause of the struggles in the running game, as Anderson has pinpointed, noting that the blame does not fall on either the offensive line or running backs, but in both areas.
"It's been really execution. It's not scheme," Anderson said. "There's not a play where I'm like, 'Hey, this is going to be a bad play.' It's all been good plays, especially when we put it [in] on the practice field. It's really about execution.
"If we can execute it, then we can run the ball. We can toss it, run right up the middle, run outside zone, inside zone, etc."
It was at this point last year that Anderson and the Broncos' running game began ramping up. After ranking 30th in rushing yardage per game (85.0), 29th in first-down rate (one every 6.41 carries) and 27th in yardage per carry (3.62) in their first six games, the Broncos improved to ninth, 11th and seventh in those statistics from Week 8 onward, averaging 102.8 yards per game, one first down every 4.47 carries and 4.29 yards per rush.
Through six games this year, the Broncos are 19th in rushing yardage per game (98.5), 20th in first-down rate (one every 4.56 carries) and 22nd in yardage per carry (3.81). All of those numbers are better than last year's rushing numbers at this time, but if they persist, the offense will continue to struggle.
"I think as an offense, our back is against the wall," Anderson said.
In their continuing preparation for Monday night's game against the Texans, the Broncos worked toward getting back to their winning ways. (photos by Eric Bakke)
- BRONCOS MUST KEEP THIRD DOWNS TO THIRD-AND-MAKEABLE**
Too often last week, the Broncos faced long-yardage situations on their third downs.
"Bottom line: We've got to stay out of those situations," Kubiak said. "We had three third-and-5s turn into third-and-10s because we jumped before the play. Third-and-10 in this league is about somewhere between 12 and 20 percent. It's not very good. So you want to stay out of those situations."
The impact of losing five yards is profound -- especially when going from third-and-4-to-6-yards (league-wide conversion percentage: 40.7) to third-and-9-to-11 (league-wide conversion percentage: 29.2 percent).
Eight of the Broncos' 15 third-down plays last week needed at least 10 yards to reach the line to gain. They converted two of them (25 percent), compared with 50 percent of their third downs from 5-9 yards (2 of 4) and 66.7 percent of their third-down tries from 1-4 yards.
For the season, the Broncos are 8-of-30 (27.7 percent) on third downs of 10 or more yards, compared with 8-of-21 (38.1 percent) from 5-9 yards and 13-of-26 (50.0 percent) from 1-4 yards.
- "A LOT OF RESPECT" FOR OSWEILER**
Former Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler, now with the Texans, said he reached out to Kubiak last week after the coach was hospitalized because of a complex migraine.
It wasn't the first time that teacher and pupil reconnected since Osweiler signed a four-year contract with the Texans in free agency last March.
"We've talked from time to time, whether it's text or whatever," Kubiak said. "Obviously, I think a lot of him. We had a lot of nice battles with him on the football field last year. We won some big games. You never forget that, and it's a part of football.
"So, yes, we've got a lot of respect for each other."
The respect also flows between Siemian and Osweiler after the two shared meetings and drills for the 2015 season.
"I've learned a ton from Peyton [Manning], obviously, but then I learned a ton from Brock as well, and the situation that he was in," Siemian said. "Brock's a good friend, and I wish him really well."
Siemian added he spoke with Osweiler earlier in the season.
"He's been pretty busy. I've been trying to stay busy, too," Siemian.
5. NO EXTRA MOTIVATION, EITHER
Fans have been pointing to this game for months, but T.J. Ward downplayed the notion that Osweiler's presence gives the Broncos any extra motivation for Monday night.
"Brock doesn't give me any more motivation," Ward said. "If Brock is the reason for our motivation, we're in trouble."
Take a photographic trip back through the series history between the Broncos and Texans.