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Monday, December 23, 2013
Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 16

By Jeff Legwold

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Denver Broncos' 37-13 win over the Houston Texans.

Clean it up: The Broncos tightened things down as Sunday's game wore on, but penalties continue to be an issue for a team that has done so much right elsewhere this season. The Broncos were flagged nine times in the win -- one was part of offsetting fouls in the fourth quarter so the down was replayed -- the seventh time this season they've been flagged at least nine times in a game, including declined penalties or offsetting. It was a particularly rough start, as the Broncos had three penalties by the time they had run their first punt return and their first six plays on offense. The Broncos were flagged just twice in the second half, including the offsetting foul.

Denver's Knowshon Moreno
Knowshon Moreno rushed for 76 yards against the Texans.
High gear: Wide receiver Eric Decker has battled through a toe injury as well as a shoulder injury. Each seemed to affect his play at times early on this season. In the first 11 games combined, he had three touchdown catches. But as defenses have often directed help in coverage to Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas or Wes Welker, Decker has become the Broncos' closer in the scoring zone. He has seven touchdown receptions in the past four games, including four against the Chiefs on Dec. 1 and two Sunday against the Texans.

Big rebound: It might be difficult to scan the rosters of the playoff teams and find a player who has adjusted his standing on the depth chart more this season than running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno's roster spot was shaky, in question, with some concerns over his durability when the Broncos opened training camp. He had had another surgical procedure on his knee this past offseason. But with Moreno's 76 yards on 11 carries Sunday, the former first-round selection in the 2009 draft has his long-awaited first 1,000-yard season. He is tied for the team lead among the Broncos' position players with 12 touchdowns (10 rushing, two receiving), has run with passion as well as power and has been consistently reliable in pass protection as well as a receiver. And he will be key to any Broncos postseason run.

Variety pack: Going into Sunday's game, the Broncos had run 77.5 percent of their plays out of a three-wide receiver set, but against the Texans' physical 3-4 look and with Welker sidelined with a concussion, they showed once again they can operate with impact out of a two-tight end look. The Broncos also adjusted that look depending on the situation. They opened the game in a three-wide receiver, two-tight end set -- no running back -- which they ran for their first six plays from scrimmage. In some other pass-first situations, they used Jacob Tamme and Julius Thomas at the two tight end spots, with Tamme lined up like a slot receiver. When they wanted a little more bulk in a run look, they used Thomas and Virgil Green together, often on the line of scrimmage. It stressed the Texans linebackers in coverage and gives the Broncos some quality options as they move into the postseason, even if Welker returns for the playoffs as expected.