DENVER -- Fall behind by 20. Mount a furious comeback. Lose by six.
"We have to learn from this game, address it, be honest, everybody needs to be accountable and try to improve forward," Manning said. "It's not the ideal situation. Everybody would love to be 3-0. That's not the way it is right now."
It is for Houston, which won its first three games for the first time in the franchise's 11-season history and beat Manning for only the third time in 19 tries -- and for the first time ever in a road game.
Manning finished 26 for 52 for 330 yards with no interceptions and two touchdowns. This was his 64th career 300-yard passing game, breaking a tie for the record with Dan Marino. But both of Manning's touchdown passes and 120 of his yards came after the Broncos (1-2) had fallen behind by 20, the way they did in Atlanta last Monday when their rally came up short in a 27-21 loss.
"It's hard to think about anything, really, besides losing two games in a row in a tough fashion," Manning said.
In the Atlanta game, the Denver defense couldn't get the ball back for Manning at the end. This time, it did, but the drive started at the Denver 14-yard line with 20 seconds left and ended with a lost fumble after Broncos receivers tried lateraling at midfield on the last play.
Manning threw three interceptions in the first quarter of the Atlanta game to match his worst quarter in 15 years in the NFL. This time, it was the defense's mistakes, not his own, that put him in the hole.
"Second week in a row we lost by six points," Denver coach John Fox said. "It's the second week in a row we started very slowly. Different side of the ball this time."
Porter, who returned an interception for a touchdown in Denver's only win this year -- the season opener against Pittsburgh - spent the rest of the game guarding the Gatorade table on the sideline. Fox said he had a knee injury. Porter's clothes were still hanging in his locker when reporters were asked to leave the locker room.
"We knew that we had to try to get the ball downfield because they had a lot of people committed to the run," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, the longtime Denver quarterback and assistant coach, who got his 50th career win. "We did what we had to do to win, convinced them that we had to make some big plays and they did."
Schaub's final touchdown was a 14-yard pass to tight end Owen Daniels, who was locked in one-on-one coverage against a slower defender, linebacker Von Miller. It gave the Texans a 31-11 lead with 1:33 left in the third quarter - placing the Houston defense in the prevent and Manning into desperation mode.
"I felt fine," Schaub said. "I just lost a piece of my ear. I was bleeding and my helmet came off. So, I had to come out for a play, but I was fine."
Manning had his ups and downs - making some throws to prove the arm strength is certainly there, but also coming up short on a couple of those 18-yard out patterns that are as routine for NFL quarterbacks as making the bed.
There were no interceptions, but that's not to say Houston didn't have its way with the 36-year-old quarterback, who came into the game with 42 career touchdowns against the team he started beating when it was in its expansion season, back in 2002.
Manning's biggest headache in this one was second-year defensive end J.J. Watt, who finished with 2 1/2 sacks and forced a holding call in the third quarter that nullified a 36-yard gain.
"I don't see those numbers of defensive linemen as much. You are looking downfield," Manning said. "I'm probably the wrong guy to ask how he played."
Notes: DE Elvis Dumervil got his first sack of the season on Denver's first defensive play, a 6-yard loss for the Broncos first safety since 2007. ... In addition to his 2 1/2 sacks, Watt hit Manning in the backfield three times. ... Former Broncos WR Rod Smith was inducted into the Denver Ring of Fame at halftime.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press