What we learned: Osweiler has rough Denver return

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The Broncos got back on track following a two-game losing streak, stifling former Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans' offense in a 27-9 victory Monday night. Here's what we learned:

1. The Denver faithful let out a hearty jeer for Osweiler, perhaps not realizing his defection to Houston freed up salary-cap space for a stronger Broncos roster. Although Osweiler managed to escape Wade Phillips' ferocious pass rush, he managed an incredibly feeble 3.2 yards per attempt on 41 passing attempts -- a figure that ranks as the third-lowest on 40 or more attempts in the Super Bowl era, per NFL Research. He missed throws downfield, in the flat and over the middle -- while also seeing passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in garbage time.

Osweiler might be tough, smart and deceptively athletic for a 6-foot-7 signal-caller, but the Texans have to be wondering if their alleged franchise quarterback has the accuracy, field vision, pocket movement and delivery to lead the next great Houston offense. Yet to take a bye week, the Texans rank dead-last with just 10 touchdowns this season -- the same total as Chargers running back Melvin Gordon alone. They entered the night 30th in red-zone touchdown percentage. It's not hyperbole to posit that the new quarterback has been a significant downgrade from Brian Hoyer, who was summarily dismissed after last January's blowout playoff loss. Fortunately for general manager Rick Smith, Osweiler's reported four-year, $72 million contract is essentially a two-year, $37 million deal.

2. After a four-game slump, the Broncos' running game finally found its groove against a Houston defense that struggles on the road. The two-headed backfield of C.J. Anderson and rookie Devontae Booker combined for 190 yards on 33 carries, good for a gaudy 5.8 yards per rush. Once the ground attack softened up the defense, Trevor Siemian started finding Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas on a pair of second-quarter touchdown drives. With bookend tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson healthy again, there's reason to believe Denver's offense is over its recent funk.

3. On pace for a back-breaking 378 touches entering Monday's game, Texans running back Lamar Miller was due for a correction more in line with his previous career high of 254 touches. Playing through an apparent shoulder injury sustained in the first quarter, Miller ended up in an even timeshare with Alfred Blue. The two backs generated almost identical rushing numbers on 11 carries apiece, though Blue coughed up a costly fumble late in the third quarter. Miller might be Houston's most productive offensive player, but the coaching staff is going to have to be more conservative with his workload in the near future.

4. Miller and Blue each averaged well over 5.0 yards per carry, pointing to an area of Denver's defense that can be exploited this season. Broncos opponents have rushed for 120 or more yards in four of seven games this season.

5. Houston's problematic offensive line suffered a big loss when right tackle Derek Newton went down with a severe injury that turned out to be torn patellar tendons in both knees. It's a devastating injury that ultimately doomed the careers of former Vikings prospect Greg Childs, former Browns corner Gary Baxter and former Bears receiver Wendell Davis.

6. Osweiler's extreme ineffectiveness contributed to a disappointing night for the wide receiver duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, who combined for just 58 yards on nine receptions and 19 targets. We would be remiss not to credit Denver's star-studded secondary, however. Cornerback Aqib Talib, in particular, had a stellar night in coverage. The three-time Pro Bowler will lock down one of the starting spots on Around The NFL's midseason All-Pro team, due to be released next week.

7. Siemian's box score won't blow anyone away, but general manager John Elway and coach Gary Kubiak can rest assured that their quarterback situation is in better shape this year than last. For a fraction of Osweiler's cost, Siemian offers better pocket movement, a more streamlined delivery, a more catchable ball and a better fit for Kubiak's offense.

"We got the quarterback whisperer as our leader," Talib said after the game. "Give us anybody, Koob will get 'em straight."

8. The first snap of the fourth quarter encapsulated Osweiler's troubles. As he cocked his arm back to throw, the ball slipped out just before the arm moved forward. The fumble ruling on the field withstood replay review, leading NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino to weigh in.

"Rule is hand coming forward with complete control to be pass," Blandino tweeted. "It starts to come loose just as hand comes forward. Not enough to change."

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