Texans offense flat in 14-10 loss to Broncos

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Texans Coach Bill O'Brien talks about the quarterback battle between Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer.

While all eyes were on the Texans quarterback battle, it was the defense that dazzled in Houston's 14-10 loss to the Denver Broncos Saturday at NRG.

PHOTOS: Fans, players and cheerleaders before Saturday's Broncos-Texans game

Ryan Mallett, competing with Brian Hoyer to be Houston's starting quarterback, opened the game on Saturday. He failed to move the offense, and the Texans punted on his two possessions. Hoyer was also unable to get into the end zone in his four drives.

Brock Osweiler gave the Broncos a 7-0 lead on a 57-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell early in the second quarter.

They were up 7-3 in the third quarter when Kourtnei Brown returned Osweiler's interception 69 yards for the score. Osweiler was 7 of 16 for 121 yards.

A 26-yard touchdown catch by Corbin Louks from rookie Trevor Siemian put Denver on top 14-10 late.

Last season's Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork were both healthy, but sat out for the second straight week. Last year's top overall pick outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who returned to practice Monday, dressed for the game but did not play.

Demaryius Thomas made his preseason debut after missing the entire offseason and signing a five-year, $70 million contract in July. He had three catches for 24 yards, but was unable to connect with Manning the two times he was targeted deep. Rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson, the 16th overall pick, was covering Thomas on both of those throws.

The Broncos were missing starting receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who sat out with a hamstring injury.

It was a homecoming for Denver coach Gary Kubiak, who was born in Houston and coached the Texans from 2006 until he was fired near the end of the 2013 season.

Peyton Manning led a 10-play drive on his second possession, but the Broncos had to punt after an incompletion on a deep throw to Owen Daniels on third-and-17. It was Manning's first chance to showcase a new look where he lined up under center instead of working from the shotgun, where he's taken snaps for almost the entire time he's been in Denver.

Outside linebacker Brandon Marshall played for the first time this year after recovering from March surgery where screws were placed in his right foot. Marshall, who led the team with 113 tackles last season, had three tackles and defended two passes in the first half.

The Broncos, who struggled on special teams last week, fumbling two punts and allowing a 103-yard touchdown return, were a bit better on Saturday, but still had some issues.

Omar Bolden, who sat out last week, was tackled by Charles James for a 6-yard loss on a punt in the first quarter. James also downed a punt by Shane Lechler on the Broncos 2-yard line early in the second quarter.

Houston had a first down at the Denver 3 early in the fourth quarter, but came away empty when EZ Nwachukwu couldn't hold onto a pass from Tom Savage in the end zone.
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