HOUSTON, TX. — Coming into this game both team had to answer questions concerning choking in the playoffs. For the Denver Broncos it was more of a question of whether Peyton would choke and for the Houston Texans it was more focused on the team as a whole.
Denver received the ball first and worked its way down the field dinking and dunking the Texans’ defense for short yardage. On Houston’s 35 yard line a pass intended for WR Wes Welker was picked off though by Brooks Reed and returned to Denver’s 31 yard line setting up great field position for the Texans. After a big 3rd down converting catch by Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub found DeAndre Hopkins, who had just dropped a touchdown pass the play before, for the first score of the game. The Broncos offense came out cold and were forced to punt. Houston’s next drive was methodical as they moved toward the goaline. A 20 yard catch by Owen Daniels but the Texans within striking distance and Arian Foster cleaned the drive up giving the Texans a 14 point lead. Two punts ensued and Denver found themselves with the ball once again. Trying to answer the playoff critiques, Peyton Manning hit Eric Decker on a 44 yard touchdown pass with :48 remaining in the half. The Broncos defense stepped up as they picked off Matt Schaub on the very next play setting up a Matt Prater field goal with :08 seconds left whittling the lead down to four as the teams entered the locker room.
Houston came out the second half with a prescription for a heavy dose of the run as Foster and Ben Tate were called upon a lot. This led to the defense cheating up and Schaub hit Garrett Graham on a 36 yard play action touchdown pass. The Broncos answered though as Manning led his team down the field and connected with Joel Dreessen on a 21 yard corner route. Down five the Broncos went for two but were unsuccessful. With 7:50 to go in the 4th Schaub found himself running backward again as Champ Bailey stepped in front of another one of his throws and held on to secure the pick. Peyton once again led a long drive filled with short passes and hit Demaryius Thomas on a 30 yard pass to bring the Broncos to the six yard line with only 4:30 to play down by five. A five yard catch by Thomas on the next play brought up 2nd and goal from the 1 yard line. CB Jonathan Joseph came up huge though and stopped Foster bringing up 3rd and goal. This time it was CB Daniel Manning’s turn to be the hero as he pounded Tate in the backfield to bring up 4th down with 3:00 remaining in the game. The Broncos surprisingly came out in 4 wide with no running back in the back field. Manning proceeded to find Tavarres King and while the catch was made his momentum brought him out of the endzone and he was tackled on the 1 yard line giving the ball to Houston. The Broncos defense played hard on the final drive of the game but a 3rd down conversion by none other than Andre Johnson sealed the victory for the Texans.