DENVER --The Broncos stopped the bleeding -- and revived their running game in the process.
After two games that were nearly identical in structure -- and problems -- the Broncos took advantage of an 11-day gap between games and put everything together in a 27-9 rout of the Houston Texans, allowing them to avoid their first three-game losing streak since the end of the 2011 regular season.
The Broncos gradually pulled away from the Texans, overcoming a slow offensive start to notch back-to-back touchdown drives of 75 and 68 yards in the second quarter, giving them a lead they never relinquished.
Running backs C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker were like a pair of bowling balls plowing through the Texans. What one couldn't knock down, the other could, leaving few open frames -- and few opportunities left unmaximized -- once they got rolling, combining for 190 yards on 33 carries as they and the offensive line got the downhill running game working better than it had to any point this season.
"If we run the ball for 150-200 yards every game, nobody's going to beat us," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
Just like last year, it was in the seventh game that C.J. Anderson broke 100 yards for the first time in a regular season -- and that the ground game finally broke loose.
"I'm just excited," Anderson said. "We played really well up front. Our O-line played tremendous. You've got to give them all the credit. I just picked the right spots and tried to run through tackles and I put more on myself to make more plays, and we did that tonight." A look back at how the Broncos fared in three key areas:
1. START FAST
The Broncos didn't come galloping out of the gate on offense, but the defense didn't stumble, stopping the Texans on their first two series before allowing consecutive drives that stalled inside the Denver 30-yard line, forcing Houston to settle for a pair of 43-yard Nick Novak field goals.
"We wanted to come out on the jump this game. Three and out," Harris said. "And that was our goal. That was a point of emphasis all week in practice -- making each other work. We got back to grinding and working during the week like we have in the past, and those are the results that you get."
Penalties held back the offense early, as a pair of holding penalties wiped out third-down conversions on two of the Broncos' first three series. But with only a 6-0 deficit, the offense had time and room to find its footing, gaining its initial first down of the game on an 11-yard C.J. Anderson run to close out the first quarter.
By minimizing Houston's early damage, the defense was able to buy the offense time to overcome its early hiccups, while allowing the offense to stay in its game plan and not play from behind.
- GET THE GROUND GAME GOING**
Houston's defense had been vulnerable to the run in recent weeks, with the loss of J.J. Watt exacerbating its issues. The Broncos' rushing game had struggled since the first two games.
Beginning with the Broncos' fourth series Monday, everything changed. Runs by Anderson and Booker set up a play-fake bootleg that Andy Janovich turned into a 12-yard gain, and Anderson later capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run through a huge lane to the left side.
With a still-developing passing game and a defense that has held opponents to an average of 8.2 points below their average, the Broncos' equation for success involves an effective ground game that can work on first and second downs like it did Monday.
3. PRESSURE OSWEILER
Although it didn't result in sacks, the Broncos' pressure was enough to rattle Osweiler. By the time the Broncos led 24-9 in the fourth quarter, Osweiler was throwing the football away on third down even when Von Miller was still a step and a half away from him.
On the following series, Derek Wolfe closed out the Texans' hopes by knocking down Osweiler's fourth-down pass at the line of scrimmage. Jared Crick knocked down another Osweiler pass on the following possession.
Osweiler finished the game with just 3.19 yards per pass attempt -- barely half of Trevor Siemian's 6.28-yard average.