NFL Nation: 2013 Week 16 DEN at HOU Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Houston Texans

December, 22, 2013

HOUSTON -- Thoughts from the Houston Texans' 37-13 loss to the Denver Broncos at Reliant Stadium:

What it means: Nothing, really. A win Sunday would have given the Texans something to feel happy about for a little bit and provided a source of pride at stalling an explosive offense. They've come to terms with the fact that they aren't accomplishing their bigger goals this season; now it's just a matter of making it through one more game before the recovery can begin.

Stock watch: Texans quarterback Matt Schaub entered Sunday's game with a chance at a bit of redemption. He missed the Week 7 game in Kansas City thanks to a foot and ankle injury. While he was out, his backup's performance gave the Texans a spark, former head coach Gary Kubiak thought, which was enough to earn Case Keenum the new role as the Texans' starter. This week Keenum was sidelined as he recovered from a thumb injury that included ligament damage. In what might have been Schaub's final game at Reliant Stadium, he offered a familiar performance. Some good moments, some shaky ones and two interceptions -- one of which opened the door for Peyton Manning's second of four touchdowns in the game.

Defense flips script: For the first three quarters, the Texans' defense was playing what might be its best game of the season. It gave up a ton of yards -- including 355 in the first half -- but only one touchdown out of all of it. Denver went into halftime with a tenuous 16-6 lead that became a 16-13 lead in the third quarter. The Broncos went three-and-out three times and punted four times in the third quarter.

Show of respect: Several Texans congratulated Manning for breaking the single-season touchdown record with 51, starting with punter Shane Lechler, then defensive end J.J. Watt. Andre Johnson exchanged a few words with Manning, as did Texans owner Bob McNair. Manning threw four touchdowns and had 400 yards.

What's next: A trip to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans, then the merciful end to what has been a nightmarish season for the Texans.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

December, 22, 2013

HOUSTON -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 37-13 win over the Houston Texans:

What it means: On a day when things were tougher than many had anticipated, the Broncos got the division title they wanted as well as a first-round bye by virtue of the win and Kansas City's loss to Indianapolis.

Stock watch: Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning came into the game on the doorstep of several single-season records, including touchdowns and passing yards. He threw his 48th, 49th, 50th and 51st touchdown passes of the season to break the record set by Tom Brady in 2007. And while the Texans were effective much of the day, slowing the Broncos to field goals in the red zone, Manning still had 296 yards passing by halftime on the way to his 12th 300-yard game of the season. It was also his eighth game of the season with at least four touchdown passes.

Mix and match: The Broncos continued to stir things up on defense with a bevy of personnel groupings as they try to search for answers on the brink of the postseason. They rotated several players at safety depending on down and distance, used Jeremy Mincey at defensive end just five days after he signed with the team, and had Champ Bailey in the lineup for just the fourth time this season. Bailey didn’t play in the base defense but did appear in all of the specialty packages.

Miller injured: Broncos linebacker Von Miller left the game in the middle of the first quarter with a left knee injury and didn’t return. Miller will be evaluated on Monday, but his absence could be seen in the team’s pass rush, and it would be a significant concern if he misses time. The Broncos struggled to get pressure with four rushers after Miller’s departure and had to take far more chances to get to Matt Schaub, adding defensive backs to the mix. It left some openings in coverage, and that trade-off will be an issue if Miller is out for any significant time.

What’s next: The Broncos wrap up the regular season in Oakland against a Raiders team limping to the finish. The Broncos would like to end the regular season as healthy as possible, but they haven’t always been sharp down the stretch and need to smooth out a few rough edges. That's especially true on defense, where they continue to look for the groupings that will give them some success.