Observation Deck: Houston Texans

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
12:05
AM ET

The Houston Texans' first-team defense, even without two important starters, was playing terrifically against a very talented Denver Broncos offense. The Texans were ahead 7-3, having sacked and intercepted Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and harried his receivers.

And then, the two-minute warning.

It's a dangerous time to be a defense against Manning, and he proved it. With 1:07 left in the first half, Manning threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders as safety Eddie Pleasant and cornerback A.J. Bouye chased him into the end zone. Then, with five seconds left in the half, Manning threw another touchdown pass to Sanders with the same two Texans defensive backs chasing him.

The Texans had sat some starters by that point, but a majority of the players who started the game finished it, an 18-17 victory pulled out in the final minute on a touchdown pass from Tom Savage to Ryan Griffin and a two-point conversion pass to Travis Labhart.

Here are some other thoughts on the Texans' third preseason game this year:
  • D.J. Swearinger likes to talk. He likes to try to get into his opponents' heads; he says that gives him an advantage. After Manning's second touchdown, just before halftime, the future Hall of Fame quarterback ran straight to Swearinger and got in his face. Manning drew a taunting penalty for that move, which could have been about something Swearinger said or Swearinger's hit on Wes Welker, which resulted in Welker getting evaluated for a concussion. You can look at this in two ways. One, Swearinger got into the head of one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. If he can rattle Manning, whom can't he rattle? Two, did he really rattle Manning? The quarterback threw two touchdown passes immediately before taunting Swearinger. We'll talk to Swearinger about it after the game.
  • It wasn't all bad for Pleasant and Bouye. Both had interceptions -- Bouye against Manning and Pleasant against backup Brock Osweiler. Bouye had done very well in coverage for the most part; it's just that a defensive back's mistakes stand out.
  • Rookie running back Alfred Blue started over Jonathan Grimes, who is listed ahead of Blue on the depth chart. Blue had several excellent runs -- eight for 27 yards by the end of the third quarter. Grimes had a very strong day, too. His best play was a 24-yard catch on which he was alert enough to get up and run after realizing he hadn't been touched. Starter Arian Foster did not play, but Blue and Grimes showed that the Texans' running back depth is in good shape.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick attempted 17 passes and five of them targeted Andre Johnson, playing in his first preseason game. Johnson caught three of those for 18 yards. It was a middling day for Fitzpatrick. He had some nice throws and some bad ones. He had one or two that should have been picked off, but weren't. One thing he does well is react to pressure. That's a marked improvement over what the Texans had last year.

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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