HOUSTON —On a muggy, warm Saturday night, had the NRG Stadium roof been open to such conditions, it would have been more understandable that both the Broncos and Texans had trouble moving much at all. Each team's drives ended far more often in punts than points, but a thrilling ending saw both sides find their offensive strides to cap a night by getting fans on their feet for the climax of a preseason game.
The combination of quarterback Trevor Siemian and wide receiver Corbin Louks would prove to be the triumphant duo to push Denver to a late 14-10 comeback victory on the road.
Second half photos of the Broncos 14-10 victory over the Texans in Houston.
With 1:50 left on the clock and facing third-and-10 from the Houston 26, Siemian dropped back in the pocket and patiently but decisively released a long pass once he saw Louks in one-on-one coverage with an inside step on his defender. Louks turned and reached up for the pass, and then he pulled it down to his chest as his momentum carried him backwards into the end zone.
It was quite the successful two-minute drill as Siemian marched the Broncos from starting at their own 8-yard line, and fittingly that was one of the drills he had practiced Thursday, when the backup quarterbacks each moved up a notch while Peyton Manning had a day off.
"Yeah, it helped a lot," Siemian began, "because I think that was one of the first times I was getting two-minute reps, so it was good to get out there and get my feet wet — especially for the situation that popped up tonight, so it was good."
Practice does not immediately make perfection, but it's put Siemian on the road to chase it. He connected on consistent passes to Isaiah Burse and Marcel Jensen, and a defensive pass interference call moved the chains 30 yards into Houston territory, setting them up for the game-winning play.
"We knew he would throw the ball well and the thing that has been impressive is some of the other stuff starting to take place," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said of Siemian after the game. "[He's] running the group and handling, you know... it's a preseason stage, but you're still on the road and you're backed up on your own 8-yard line to start a big drive, so he continues to do those things and he's trying to prove he can play in this league and make this team."
The Texans attempted to mount a touchdown drive of their own and though they succeeded in going 50 yards up the field, time was their most dangerous enemy on the field and one that they could not best. The clock hit triple zeroes as QB Tom Savage and the Houston offense endeavored to get back to the line of scrimmage.
However, before that point, each team's drives were halted in quick succession or after a few first downs, at most. Of the 12 combined first-half drives between them, only one ended in points when Brock Osweiler saw a streaking Andre Caldwell and connected on a 57-yard touchdown pass.
The defense held much like it did in the first game against Seattle, giving up 4.0 yards per play—4.5 yards allowed per passing play, 3.0 yards per rushing play. The Broncos forced no turnovers and didn't get the flashy defensive statistics like they did against the Seahawks. But that doesn't mean they weren't effective.
"It's coming from everywhere," Kubiak said of the defense after Saturday's game. "That's the good thing. We're very consistent defensively. Probably the thing that's most disappointing is we're giving up penalties that help people extend drives so that's something that we've got to improve upon."
Pressure, like in Seattle, was a key factor with the Broncos chasing opposing quarterbacks in Houston for five sacks, half of which came from nose tackles.
With the Broncos standing strong on the line and providing solid coverage, the team shut out the Texans for the duration of the first half and took a 7-0 lead into the locker room following the Osweiler-to-Caldwell connection. And though the defense wouldn't allow a touchdown, an interception returned for a touchdown put the Broncos in a deficit that they would have to dig out of.
And even though the most exciting plays came at the end on offense and defense, the last two series showed the resilience of the team through its depth.
"It really shows that guys are not giving up," OLB DeMarcus Ware said, "because we were down and the offense went out there and scored and it put everything on the defense's back, saying, 'Hey, you've got to get out there and close the game.' And that's what it's going to take for this season to get through."