DENVER — Fall behind by 20. Mount a furious comeback. Lose by six.
The ugly interceptions didn’t play into Peyton Manning’s second straight defeat, but so much of the rest of it sounded like a broken record – the likes of which the Broncos quarterback doesn’t want to hear anymore.
Matt Schaub lost a small chunk of his ear after a brutal hit, but still outplayed Manning, throwing for four touchdowns against a confused Broncos defense Sunday to stake the Houston Texans to a big lead on the way to a 31-25 victory.
“We have to learn from this game, address it, be honest, everybody needs to be accountable and try to improve forward,” Manning said. “It’s not the ideal situation. Everybody would love to be 3-0. That’s not the way it is right now.”
It is for Houston, which won its first three games for the first time in the franchise’s 11-season history and beat Manning for only the third time in 19 tries – and for the first time ever in a road game.
Manning finished 26 for 52 for 330 yards with no interceptions and two touchdowns. This was his 64th career 300-yard passing game, breaking a tie for the record with Dan Marino. But both of Manning’s touchdown passes and 120 of his yards came after the Broncos (1-2) had fallen behind by 20, the way they did in Atlanta last Monday when their rally came up short in a 27-21 loss.
“It’s hard to think about anything, really, besides losing two games in a row in a tough fashion,” Manning said.
In the Atlanta game, the Denver defense couldn’t get the ball back for Manning at the end. This time, it did, but the drive started at the Denver 14-yard line with 20 seconds left and ended with a lost fumble after Broncos receivers tried lateraling at midfield on the last play.
Manning threw three interceptions in the first quarter of the Atlanta game to match his worst quarter in 15 years in the NFL. This time, it was the defense’s mistakes, not his own, that put him in the hole.
“Second week in a row we lost by six points,” Denver coach John Fox said. “It’s the second week in a row we started very slowly. Different side of the ball this time.”
Schaub threw for 290 yards. He took advantage of blown coverages to connect with Andre Johnson for a 60-yard score and Kevin Walter for a 52-yard touchdown en route to a 21-5 lead in the second quarter.
After the second score, starting cornerback Tracy Porter was not seen on the field again.
Porter, who returned an interception for a touchdown in Denver’s only win this year – the season opener against Pittsburgh – spent the rest of the game guarding the Gatorade table on the sideline. Fox said he had a knee injury. Porter’s clothes were still hanging in his locker when reporters were asked to leave the locker room.
“We knew that we had to try to get the ball downfield because they had a lot of people committed to the run,” said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, the longtime Denver quarterback and assistant coach, who got his 50th career win. “We did what we had to do to win, convinced them that we had to make some big plays and they did.”
Schaub’s final touchdown was a 14-yard pass to tight end Owen Daniels, who was locked in one-on-one coverage against a slower defender, linebacker Von Miller. It gave the Texans a 31-11 lead with 1:33 left in the third quarter – placing the Houston defense in the prevent and Manning into desperation mode.
That touchdown pass came about 10 minutes after Schaub was leveled by Joe Mays, which resulted in Denver’s second consecutive roughing-the-passer penalty and, eventually, a Texans field goal for a 24-11 lead. Schaub came out for a play and had a big, bloody mark on his left ear.
“I felt fine,” Schaub said. “I just lost a piece of my ear. I was bleeding and my helmet came off. So, I had to come out for a play, but I was fine.”
Den—Dumervil safety, 13:20.
Den—FG Prater 32, 8:41.
Hou—Johnson 60 pass from Schaub (S.Graham kick), 6:28.
Hou—Foster 3 pass from Schaub (S.Graham kick), 10:47.
Hou—Walter 52 pass from Schaub (S.Graham kick), 8:54.
Den—FG Prater 23, 5:44.
Den—FG Prater 53, :01.
Hou—FG S.Graham 41, 9:11.
Hou—Daniels 14 pass from Schaub (S.Graham kick), 1:33.
Den—Stokley 38 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 9:49.
Den—Dreessen 6 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 3:00.
|Total Net Yards||436||375|
|Time of Possession||31:40||28:20|
RUSHING—Houston, Foster 25-105, Tate 8-26, Martin 1-21. Denver, McGahee 12-36, Ball 7-16, Hillman 2-7.
PASSING—Houston, Schaub 17-30-1-290. Denver, Manning 26-52-0-330.
RECEIVING—Houston, Walter 3-73, Daniels 3-26, Casey 3-11, Johnson 2-72, G.Graham 2-39, Martin 2-20, Jean 1-46, Foster 1-3. Denver, Decker 8-136, Stokley 6-73, D.Thomas 3-34, Tamme 3-31, Dreessen 2-36, Gronkowski 1-11, McGahee 1-6, Ball 1-2, Hillman 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.