PLAYER INTRODUCTIONS: The offensive starters are being introduced, as they sprint through the tunnel one-by-one. Tim Tebow is the last player onto the field, and he runs to greet his teammates — Brian Dawkins is there first for an embrace — to a loud ovation.
COIN TOSS: The captains are at midfield for the coin toss — including Rod Smith. The Texans call heads — and it’s tails. The Broncos win the toss and defer to the second half. Denver will kick to Houston to start the game.
Q1 15:00: Steven Hauschka is in to kick off, with Steve Slaton deep to receive for the Texans. Slaton fields it a yard deep in the end zone and is tackled by Eric Decker at the 20-yard line. The starting defense is on the field, with Justin Bannan, Jamal Williams and Kevin Vickerson on the line. The linebackers are Robert Ayers and Mario Haggan on the outside with D.J. Williams and Wesley Woodyard lined up inside. In the secondary it’s Champ Bailey, Andre’ Goodman, Renaldo Hill and Brian Dawkins, back after missing the past three games with a knee injury.
Q1 14:48: Houston’s first play from scrimmage is a handoff to Arian Foster, who is dropped by D.J. Williams after a gain of a yard. On second down it’s Foster again, and Vickerson and Bailey are there to stop him for a loss of a yard. Now third-and-10, Matt Schaub lines up in the shotgun. He takes the snap, drops back and fires to Owen Daniels, who is stopped short of the first down. There’s a flag on the play, however — illegal formation on the Texans. The penalty is declined and the Texans have a fourth down. Matt Turk is in to punt to Eddie Royal, who waits at his own 29. He calls for a fair catch at the 40, where the offense will take over.
Q1 13:14: The starting offense has taken the field, led by Tim Tebow at quarterback. The rookie makes his second career start in the NFL behind Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Chris Kuper and Ryan Harris on the offensive line. Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney are in at receiver, and Knowshon Moreno is in the backfield. On first down, Tebow passes quickly to Moreno, who sprints 22 yards to the Houston 38. On the ensuing first down, Tebow lines up in the shotgun and quickly gets a pass out to Gaffney, who gets to about the 15-yard line before fumbling forward to the 11, where the ball is recovered by Ryan Harris. It’s another first down for the Broncos.
Q1 11:56: On the following play, Tebow throws a pass toward Lloyd in the end zone, but the pass is picked off by Texans cornerback Jason Allen. He takes a knee for a touchback.
Q1 11:40: Foster finds the sideline on first down, but he’s tripped up and then tackled by Dawkins after a gain of 5. On second down, it’s Foster yet again, but he’s stopped on a toss after being forced back inside by Ayers. Jamal Williams is there for the tackle after a 2-yard gain. On third-and-3, Schaub drops back and is flushed out of the pocket before being forced to throw the ball away out of bounds to bring up another fourth down. That’s two three-and-outs forced by the Broncos defense. Royal is deep to receive Turk’s punt — this time he fields the punt and runs with it, sprinting across the field and finding the far sideline before being pushed out of bounds at the Denver 42-yard line. It’s a 20-yard return.
Q1 10:01: The officials re-set the ball at the 41-yard line, where Tebow and the offense take over. On first down, Moreno takes a carry, but he’s slowed up at the line of scrimmage for no gain. On second down, it’s Correll Buckhalter who gets the carry, and he’s wrapped up after a gain of 3. On thrid-and-7, Tebow lines up in the shotgun and quickly gets a pass out to Gaffney, who — thanks to blocks by Royal and Lloyd — gets upfield for the first down in Houston territory. On the next play, Tebow fakes a handoff and can’t find anyone upfield, so takes off running. He picks up a yard before Brian Cushing tries to rip his helmet off, and Daniel Graham takes offense. There’s no flag on the play, however, and it’s second-and-9. The next play is a handoff to Moreno, but there’s a flag on the play — block in the back on the Broncos. That makes it second-and-17 at the Denver 48-yard line. Buckhalter gets to midfield on the following play, making it third-and-15. Tebow lines up in the shotgun and quickly gets a pass out to Royal, but the receiver can’t pick up the first down. Britton Colquitt is in to punt. Jacoby Jones is at the 10-yard line to receive for the Texans. Colquitt’s punt is high and Jones signals for a fair catch at the 9.
Q1 5:52: On first down, Schaub finds Owen Daniels, who snuck away from the line of scrimmage, and the tight end follows blockers to the 40-yard line. Schaub finds Jones on the following play, giving the Texans a first down in Denver territory at the 49. The ensuing first down brings a run by Foster, who is smothered by Jamal Williams after a gain of 2 — a pretty big hit there. Schaub finds Daniels again for another first down on the following play. On first-and-10 at the 37-yard line, Foster takes a handoff and sprints down the sideline for what would’ve been a touchdown had Dawkins not flown in to force him out of bounds at the 3-yard line. On first-and-goal, Foster finds the corner of the end zone on a handoff for the first points of the day. Neil Rackers’ extra point is up and in.
TEXANS 7, BRONCOS 0
Q1 2:41: Eric Decker fields the kickoff and gets to about the 23-yard line, where he fumbles after a pretty big hit that sent him into the air, but David Bruton is there for the recovery. The offense will take over at the 22-yard line.
Q1 2:35: On first down, Tebow fakes a handoff before firing to Brandon Lloyd, who brings in the catch at the 41-yard line for a first down. Moreno takes a handoff on the following play, but he’s stopped at the line of scrimmage. On second-and-10, Tebow avoids a sack before throwing toward Royal — so there’s no flag for intentional grounding. On thrid down, Tebow can’t find anyone open downfield so he takes off running before he’s leveled by Brian Cushing. It’s a 1-yard gain, and Colquitt is in to punt. Jones fields it off a bounce and is dropped immediately by Daniel Coats at the 14-yard line.
Q1 0:25: The crowd is making noise as Schaub hands off to Foster on first down, and the back is stopped after a gain of 1 by Wesley Woodyard, bringing the first quarter to a close.
Q2 15:00: Schaub finds Jones on a short pass, but the receiver breaks out of a tackle and takes off upfield for a 47-yard gain. He’s stopped at the Denver 38-yard line. On the following play, Schaub finds Jones again for a big gain to the 4. On first-and-goal, Foster picks up a yard. Second-and-goal brings another handoff, and Foster is again stopped quickly, but there’s a flag on the play — holding on the defense. It’s half the distance to the goal, and Houston has an automatic first down.
Q2 12:40: On first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, Mario Haggan bursts through the line to take down Foster behind the line of scrimmage. Now second-and-goal at the 3, Schaub finds Owen Daniels on a play fake for Houston’s second touchdown of the day. Rackers’ extra point is through the uprights.
TEXANS 14, BRONCOS 0
Q2 11:35: After a touchback, Moreno gains 2 yards on a rush on first down. Second-and-8 at the 22 brings a long run by Moreno, who finds the sideline down to the 33 for a first down. Lance Ball is in at running back as Tebow fakes a handoff and rolls to his left. He fires a pass deep downfield but the ball sails over Lloyd’s head out of bounds. On second down, Tebow is in the shotgun. He hands off to Buckhalter, who fakes right before bursting to his left for a 4-yard gain. On third-and-6, Tebow avoids pressure and fires to Royal, who makes a big catch even after a big hit at midfield. The receiver is fired up as he heads back to the huddle. On the ensuing first down, Tebow hands off to Ball, who fumbles the ball and picks it back up for a 1-yard gain. On the enxt play, Tebow lofts a quick screen pass out to Buckhalter, who makes the first man miss and spins his way for a 5-yard gain. On third-and-4 at the Houston 44-yard line, Tebow lofts a pass toward Royal, but it’s incomplete. Colquitt is in to punt. He sails it high and it bounces at the 5-yard line, but Britt Davis couldn’t find the ball and it bounces into the end zone for a touchback.
Q2 7:26: On first down, Jones gets the ball on an end-around, but the Broncos defense had it sniffed out from the start. Justin Bannan and Jason Hunter chase the receiver out of bounds for a loss of 3. Arian Foster takes a carry on the next play to just about a yard short of the first down. On third-and-1, Derrick Ward fumbles a pitch before picking it back up — and he’s stopped for no gain. Royal is back deep to field the punt, and picks up some yardage — but there’s a flag on the play for a block in the back. So the Denver offense starts with a first-and-10 at its own 9-yard line.
Q2 5:35: Moreno fights his way for a 2-yard gain on first down, and gets another carry on second down, but slips after another 2 yards. Now third-and-6, Tebow throws a quick pass to Gaffney, but it’s high and it bounces off the receiver’s hands as he’s nailed by cornerback Jason Allen. He’s down after the play.
Q2 4:17: Gaffney gets off the field under his own power after the play. Now fourth down, Colquitt is in to punt, and Jones fields it his own 35. He gets near midfield — the 47-yard line, to be exact — on the return after the 52-yard punt.
Q2 4:04: On first down, Schaub finds Daniels on a play-action pass, and Andre’ Goodman flips him upside down on the stop after a gain of 5. Foster takes a handoff on the following play, and he’s tripped up by Woodyard just short of the first down. On third-and-1 at the Denver 44-yard line, Foster picks up the first down on a run to the right side. On the ensuing first down, Schaub fakes a handoff before getting a screen pass out to James Casey, who follows his blockers for a 21-yard gain to the 21-yard line. That brings the half to the two-minute warning.
Q2 2:00: Facing a first-and-10 at the 21, Foster takes a carry for a yard before Jamal Williams is there to take him down. On second down, Schaub’s pass is in complete. That brings up third down, and Schaub connects with Foster, but the back can’t shake D.J. Williams, who makes the stop at the 15-yard line. That makes it fourth down, and Houston calls a timeout with 26 seconds remaining in the first half. Rackers is in for a field goal after the break, and he knocks home the 34-yarder to extend Houston’s lead.
TEXANS 17, BRONCOS 0
Q2 0:22: The Broncos run one play — a handoff to Ball, who picks up 10 yards — to bring the first half to a close.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com