Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos: 5 Questions with Mile High Report

This week we had the chance to catch up with Mile High Report’s Ian St. Clair ahead of Sunday’s game between the Houston Texans and the Denver Broncos. Both teams had disappointing finishes in their Week 1 matches and are looking to enter the win column on Sunday. Ian was kind enough to sit down and answer some of my questions about the game and the upcoming season for the Broncos.

The Texans and Broncos games ended the same way with new head coaches choosing to kick the game late rather than kick in on fourth down. I have a pretty good finger on the pulse of Houston following this decision. What does Denver think of Nathaniel Hackett? Is there any buyer’s remorse or do you think it was just a dot on the radar?

Broncos Country is still in shock. After leaving Vic Fangio, the idea was that greener pastures were ahead of us. And then Denver added Russell Wilson. But even with a new quarterback, the same clock and game management issues are present and factored in. Then you add playcalling with two consecutive drives that hit Seattle’s 1-yard line. There is no buyer’s remorse. However, the honeymoon is over. The other big problem is that the Broncos looked like a team that hadn’t played or prepared. And it was a decision made by Hackett not to play his starters in pre-season. In the end, it was a game and the issues are more than fixable. Denver did more than enough to win Monday’s game.

What do you think are the keys to the Broncos rebounding and having a better performance against the Texans?

The red zone offense needs to improve. Denver was 0-for-4 in the red zone, with two consecutive drives at the Seahawks 1-yard line ending in costly fumbles. The play call didn’t do Wilson any favors either. Perform shotgun games from 1? Clock and game management need to improve and the Broncos need to reduce penalties. Minus the red zone issues, Wilson and Denver’s offense moved the ball at will. Defensively, the Broncos need to do what they did in the second half when they gave Geno Smith and Seattle next to nothing.

Who are one or two Broncos players you don’t think you know, but will definitely know their names after this game is over?

I hit the drum for KJ Hamler before the Seahawks game, so I’ll do it again for Week 2. Hamler didn’t get a lot of targets against Seattle, and hopefully that changes. Hamler has great speed and adds another element to Denver’s offense. Based on production/use in week 1, Andrew Beck. Troy Aikman said on the MNF show that Hackett hopes to use Beck like Kyle Shanahan is using Kyle Juszczyk with the San Francisco 49ers. Obviously, if Beck can get close to what Juszczyk is, that’s another big threat to the Broncos’ offense. I would expect Beck to get more action on Sunday.

The Broncos just paid over $200 million for Russell Wilson. How much blame are you sending him for that opening loss? How much blame lies with the coaching staff? The other players on offense? Do you think the problems we saw on Monday night will continue or do you think they are easily fixable?

Ultimately, Wilson is the QB, and the fact that Denver hasn’t entered the end zone once in four red-zone attempts falls somewhat on him. In terms of blame though, not much. Like I said, the Broncos offense moved the ball and looked really good (outside of the 20s). The majority of what Broncos Country and everyone else saw Monday was about Hackett and his team. The team and the coaches were not prepared or ready. The good news, at least for the Broncos, is that the problems can be fixed. I wonder how different the team would be if Hackett had played their starters in preseason.

Beyond this Sunday, which AFC West team scares you the most? How do you see the division collapsing once all the dust has settled?

It’s probably the Chiefs. The Chargers are going to Charge at some point. But how could you watch Patrick Mahomes and that KC offense and not think they’re the best in the division? Wilson and the Broncos still have a great shot, but with Mahomes and the Chiefs looking like there’s not much room for error anymore. In the end, the Chiefs win AFC West, the Broncos and Chargers fight for second place, and the Raiders sit in the basement where they belong.

There’s always a lot of disagreement here about who the Texans are and last Sunday didn’t do much to settle any of those debates. As an underdog, how do you view the Texans this season? What are your general expectations from a distance? Of course, we come to the final. What are your expectations/predictions for this game?

The Texans are going to be one of those teams that surprise people because they fight and fall. It’s Lovie Smith’s mentality and the way she coaches. So even if it doesn’t show up in the win column, they’ll be competing against each other every week and in most games they play. I think the Broncos are fixing some of the issues we saw on Monday. The key is for Wilson and the Broncos offense to take the lead. If they are able to do that, it sets up the defense to successfully attack Davis Mills and force him into turnovers. The Texans stay close with their conservative offense and opportunistic defense. The gap is currently at 10, I think that’s a push, 27-17 Broncos.

We would like to thank Ian again for taking the time to speak with us this week. You can see his work on the Mile High Report and follow him on Twitter (@IanStClair). We want to wish him and the Broncos the best of luck throughout the season in the rest of the matchups after Week 2.

Amanda J. Marsh