DENVER (AFP) – Russell Wilson overcame a slow start and a series of boos on his Denver debut on Sunday to lead the failing Broncos to the Houston Texans 16-9 to claim rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett’s first NFL win.
For much of the day, it was just as ugly as Wilson’s return to Seattle six days ago, filled with a hostile crowd, problematic running calls, red-zone sands, and an abundance of head-scratching penalties.
“All I really care about is the cheers at the end, because we won,” Wilson said.
The Broncos were marked (1-1) 13 times for 100 yards, giving them 25 penalties over the course of the year, the most ever in consecutive games.
But they took it out in defense, catching Houston (0-1-1) with a hat-trick of field goals by Kaymee Fairburn.
Having completed just six of his first 20 throws, Wilson went 4-for-4 in a scoring drive by the Broncos that featured a 35-yard shot to Courtland Sutton wide open and a 22-yard bonus for a tight finish to Eric Soubert who put Denver ahead 13-9 in early in the fourth quarter.
“We are of an ‘always improving’ mentality,” Saubert said. “So, we will continue to improve every week. It’s scary what we can do. You know, we get rid of those penalties, we put them in the end zone, and we’re going to be a really good team.”
Wilson finished 14 of 31 for 219 yards with one TD and an interception. He continued his lone throw in the TD with an engine chewing clock finished with Brandon McManus’ 50-yard goal with 3:41 left for the final margin.
“We have a lot of confidence in third,” said Denver defender Dremont Jones, who had a pair of sacks. “That’s why he makes $250 million.”
Davis Mills defended the Texas move when Randy Gregory scored his first sack in the Broncos just before the two-minute mark to help block Houston’s attempt to tie it.
The Texans came in as a 10-point underdog, but made the Broncos and their fans overstate the prospect of a 0-2 start under Hackett, who was subjected to a number of tough play calls after a week of widespread taunts for taking the ball off Wilson. Hand and attempt a field goal 64 yards in the last minute of a 17-16 loss in Seattle.
Six days after being ruthlessly booed upon his return to Lumen Field, Wilson heard the birdsong in the house as he completed 6 of 19 passes in the first half that ended in a 6-6 draw and again when he threw an interception in his first game. Toss the second half.
Wilson garnered a standing ovation as he exited the tunnel and through smoke, but the love was short-lived as a series of falling passes and failures sparked the crowd.
In one case of Wilson’s incompleteness, Broncos lost wide receiver Jerry Goody to a rib injury the team initially said was a right shoulder injury. It’s the second in a row that Judy has been hurt. He missed two months last season after an ankle injury in the opening game.
The Broncos also lost their corner star Patrick Sertin II to a shoulder injury and was replaced by rookie striker Damari Matisse, who made five tackles and a break pass.
The red-faced area
After going 0-for-4 in the red zone in Seattle on Monday night, the Broncos twice drove inside their opponent’s 5-yard line in the first half only to knock them out with field goals.
In the first quarter, Wilson had three Texas 2 incompletes, including one where Sutton failed to get his left foot inside.
Shortly before the break, Wilson threw incompletely to Jafonte Williams at the 5 goal line when it looked like he could have passed it to the end zone himself. Then, after Williams bullied his way to 1, Wilson lined up at the gun and had to throw the ball away, sending McManus back again for 24 yards and hooking it 20 seconds before.
“The truth is we have to play better,” Wilson said.
Fairburn set up a 24-yard Texan lead 9-6 after linebacker Christian Kirksey snatched the ball off Sutton at Denver’s 45-yard line in the second play of the second half.
The Broncos’ offenses included a pair of game delay penalties for field shooting attempts. Four delays so far is double what it was last season.
Denver was also whistled because there were too many men in the field. And the Broncos had to call timeout when they had too few players to kick – and that missing man was the rookie back in Montrell Washington.
“We have to get better at finishing games,” Texas’ Larmy Tunsell said after Houston failed to do so for the second week in a row. “Once we do that, we’ll be a great team.”
It’s just a matter of maintaining the strong starts, said the Texans running back, Damon Pierce: “We were playing on the level about what we needed to play, but we couldn’t pull that rabbit out of the hat in the end.”
Unlike Wilson and Broncos.
Houston LB left Kevin Pierre-Louis (groin area) in the third quarter and DB Derek Stingley Jr. left with an unspecified injury. Hackett had no post-game updates for Jodi or Sirten.
Texans are visiting Chicago on Sunday.
The Broncos host the 49ers on Sunday night.
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