Takeaways as the Houston Texans end the Broncos’ five-game win streak

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The five-game winning run came to an end on Sunday and it made a fairly sizeable dent in Denver’s playoff hopes. 

Despite it being the Broncos’ worst performance since the week five loss to the New York Jets the Broncos did come within eight yards of winning the game late in the day once again. 

Without much further ado, here are my takeaways as another week of the regular season is in the books.

The season isn’t over 

No matter how difficult the loss is to take it’s important to remember two things; firstly, the Broncos weren’t supposed to be in this position playing meaningful games in December with genuine playoff aspirations. 

Secondly, the playoff hopes aren’t over yet, the loss to Houston hurts because of its implications with tiebreakers and in-conference records but thanks to other games this Sunday the Broncos are by no means out of the playoff race.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns lost meaning the Broncos are only one game back from both teams as well as the Indianapolis Colts who needed overtime to scrape past the 4-8 Tennessee Titans. 

All three of those teams currently occupy the three wildcard spots and the Houston Texans are also only one game ahead of the Broncos. 

The Kansas City Chiefs also losing to the Green Bay Packers puts the Broncos two games back from the top of the division, adding more salt to the wounds of the loss, but with their game against a resurgent Buffalo Bills team out of their bye week the Broncos could be one game back from the division lead this time next week.

Sloppy first half 

The first half was poor, and much more akin to a performance we’d have seen from the Nathaniel Hackett Broncos last year. 

They couldn’t move the ball and found themselves in insurmountable third and long scenarios far too often. 

On the defensive side of the ball, they allowed Houston to have too many big plays early on, particularly from Nico Collins and ultimately they let CJ Stroud get comfortably in his rhythm early in the game.

Despite this, they should have held the Texans to only nine first-half points which would have made it a 9-3 game at halftime but Alex Singleton’s push on CJ Stroud (after an obvious headbutt from the rookie which the officials didn’t see) gave Houston a fresh set of downs in the red zone and they added seven to their total instead making it a two-score game going into halftime.

Texans’ defence stole the show 

Houston’s defence was electric all day long and they need to be given their flowers for how well they played on Sunday. 

Will Anderson lived in the backfield and toyed with Mike McGlinchey on the right of the offensive line all day long. 

The Broncos couldn’t run the ball effectively and as we’ve seen through this five-game stretch the run game is the basis of this team’s success.

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In the secondary, Derek Stingley Jr. finally announced himself to the league with two interceptions, the second of which was an excellent acrobatic pick. 

As well as the former third overall pick, experienced safety Jimmie Ward also capped off a good red zone stand from the Houston defence by sealing the game with an interception on the Broncos’ game-winning drive attempt late on.

Lost the takeaway battle 

Perhaps the major key for the Texans to win the game was the turnover battle, for the first time since their five–game win streak started they lost the turnover battle.

It’s the first time since week three they haven’t recorded a turnover either so the Texans really shut down both of the areas of Denver’s game which they were using to generate wins, running the ball and forcing turnovers.

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The Broncos did manage to force a fumble when star undrafted cornerback Jaquan McMillian sacked CJ Stroud on a blitz but the Broncos had three bites at the cherry and still couldn’t collect the fumble. 

Consequently, on the same drive, Houston scored and perhaps pushed the game out of reach from Denver, one of the many flashpoints in the game the Broncos found themselves on the wrong side of.

Week 14 preview 

In week 14 the Broncos will have a chance to get back on track with the first of four AFC games that they play, all against teams with losing records, on their run-in. 

It’s the second of their three-game road stretch as they travel to Los Angeles to play a Chargers team that has been inconsistent all season long. 

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Head coach Brandon Staley is on the hot seat and the Broncos can all but end their division rivals’ chances at making the postseason with a win. 

On Sunday they struggled to beat a poor Patriots team, only scoring six total points in a 6-0 win in Foxborough. 

Sean Payton will want to see his unit get back in the win column after a tricky loss, keeping them in the playoff hunt before a really tough road matchup at Detroit in week 15.

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