ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -Though the Broncos fell to the Texans 18-17, there was plenty to learn and like about the game.
Starters on defense thrive. Again.
Von Miller was back on the field on Saturday night. Though he played just one series, he was not limited and was wreaking havoc on Ryan Fitzpatrick in his short playing time.
With Miller on the field, the 2014 Broncos defense looked to get a little closer to its full potential.
While the team is still waiting for Chris Harris Jr. to return, Bradley Roby stepped in and made some great plays- showing his offseason progress. He made a couple of key stops on Andre Johnson- not the simplest task.
But for a defense that was battered and beaten last season, Saturday night showed how good they can be.
"Yeah, we're ready to go, everybody is healthy. It felt good to have [SLB] Von [Miller] and [DT Kevin] Vickerson back out there today," said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. "Right now, like I said, we're focusing on Indianapolis and as much film as we can watch, we'll watch. We will obviously cheer our teammates on in Dallas and you always want to win, but the regular season is right around the corner and we have to get ready."
Vickerson also joined the defense for the first time in this 2014 preseason on Saturday night, entering the defensive line rotation.
But the starting defense held the Texans to one score and just 117 yards, including just 37 on the ground.
As the defense that lost so many of its key players last season slowly comes together with injured players returning and acquisitions becoming more comfortable, it seems that the first team defense can be a force. Last week against the 49ers, the defense held them to a shutout, stumping one of the best teams in the NFC.
"[Houston] had some decent drives," Roby said. "It's a long game; one game isn't decided by one drive. I think as a defense we're playing well right now, we're getting some of the guys back, so I'm excited for the season."
After his excellent play against the 49ers where he finished 10-of-13 for 105 yards and a 125.5 passer rating, Brock Osweiler's magic didn't translate to the Texans' game on Saturday night.
His Saturday ended 4-of-11 for 43 yards. He finished fourth on the team with 17 rushing yards and, on a pass tipped in front of Cody Latimer, was picked off by Eddie Pleasant at the end of the third quarter.
Quarterback Zac Dysert did not play in the game, and Osweiler and the Broncos' night ended with four consecutive incompletions and turning the ball over on downs with less than a minute on the clock.
While Saturday night wasn't Osweiler's shining moment, he has shown promise during practices and in the Broncos' previous games. He connected with Latimer for a nice 17-yard gain in the fourth quarter. He also led a 16-play drive in the fourth quarter that lasted nearly ten minutes. The drive started at the Broncos' own 11 and gained 71 yards, despite 30 yards of penalties.
The drive, spattered with flags, ended in a field goal miss, but likely would have changed the outcome of the game had Mitch Ewald made it through the uprights.
Osweiler's growth this offseason is clear as he has better command in the pocket and more confidence going downfield.
Marvin Austin's near pick-six
It seemed that the entirety of Sports Authority Field gasped on Saturday night as Marvin Austin dropped into coverage (no, that is not a typo) and nearly intercepted Case Keenum. The near-pick would have easily been run in for a touchdown.
As Austin's run continued after he dropped the ball, he put his hands on his head in disappointment and frustration.
"I feel like if I had caught that pass I definitely could have helped us get a W. Losing by one, it just makes it even more. It haunts me, man. I can't stop thinking about it. That's all I could say as I was leaving the field, 'Man, I should have caught that pass.'
In college, he made a pick for a touchdown, but he said it's important to make sure you make the catch. He said "every play counts" when you're trying to make the roster.
"I'm still grinding to make the 53," he said. "Every play counts and I just want to go out there, play hard, play physical, play fast and I just feel like that play could have really changed the outcome of the game."