'Can't Overlook The Broncos' | Denver Leads NFL In Red Zone Scoring Defense

Brandon Scott
December 06, 2019 - 12:24 pm

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- The Broncos (4-8) bring a losing record and a rookie quarterback making only his second professional start into NRG Stadium on Sunday. 

On paper, it's a game the Texans (8-4) are supposed to win. 

They're leading the AFC South, with victories against the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, who also lead their respective divisions in the AFC.

Meanwhile, the Broncos have floundered in their first year under head coach Vic Fangio. 

The Texans aren't overlooking the Broncos, who have one of the league's better defenses. 

Denver's defense ranks fifth in pass defense (210.6 ypg), ninth in scoring defense (19.8 ppg) and 11th in total defense (324.3 ypg).

The Broncos also rank first in the NFL in red zone scoring defense. They have allowed touchdowns on only 13 of 33 trips into the red zone.

The defense features players like former Texans defensive back Kareem Jackson, former Texas A&M standout Von Miller, defensive end Derek Wolfe and four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris.

"You can't overlook the Broncos," Texans veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. "They're a tough team. They've had some close games this year they didn't get to finish. You never can overlook a team like that. Obviously, first-year coach coming in, they're going to play hard for him. There's a lot of respect there. With the veteran leadership on this team ... you have to remind everyone that if you want to be playing for meaningful games late in December, you have to take care of business."

On offense, second-year wide receiver Courtland Sutton is becoming a reliable weapon for Denver. Sutton ranks 12 in the league in receiving yards (906) and has the most as a Bronco through the first 28 games to start a career.

Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said Thursday the challenge with Sutton is that he catches just about everything thrown his way. He catches it when he's doubled, can catch it underneath, and can catch it deep, Crennel said.

There's also running back Phillip Lindsay, who signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent last year is and is on pace for his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season.

Deshaun Watson talked this week about the team leadership not allowing players to lose focus in a game everyone is expecting them to win.

"Denver is a great 4-8 team if you want to look at the record. But we don't look at the record. Every team is really good and you've got to turn the page and be prepared each and every week. You can't have no let-ups because you will be embarrassed." 

Rookie quarterback Drew Lock helped lead the Broncos to a 23-20 win against the Chargers last Sunday in his first career start. 

Winning your first start as a rookie is important because of how it builds confidence and camaraderie in the locker room. 

Crennel, though, is 11-1 against rookie quarterbacks in his career. The coach didn't want to make much of it when he spoke to reporters on Thursday, other than to note his experience versus rookie's inexperience. 

Crennel said Lock is an accurate thrower and the weapons around him are what the Texans have to focus on.

A healthy secondary is helpful in that regard.

Cornerback Bradley Roby, who spent his first five seasons with the Broncos before signing with the Texans last offseason, is back from a lingering hamstring injury that kept him out for five games. Safeties Tashaun Gipson Sr. and Justin Reid had also been banged up with various injuries.

The Texans were strong up front in a 28-22 win against the Patriots last Sunday, and the secondary held New England's meager passing offense in check. 

Even with the Texans seeming to dominate New England, the score was still close.

"It’s very rare that the games aren’t close in this league. It’s set up that way," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "It’s a very, very evenly matched league and I think our players understand that, and they have to know that it’s going to take great focus to beat Denver. Denver’s a very good football team. I don’t really care what they’re record is. Denver – put the tape on.

"Once you put the tape on of Denver and you see Von Miller and you see their rookie quarterback, the way he’s playing, you see their running game, you know they’ve got Vic Fangio on the sideline. Like, you better get focused. You better focused on Denver. I think that our players understand that."

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