HOUSTON (AP) — Nico Collins had the best game of his career, and the Texans' defense came up huge to help Houston hand Denver its first loss since mid-October.
Collins had a career-high 191 yards receiving and a fourth-quarter touchdown after fellow wideout Tank Dell left early with a season-ending broken leg, and Jimmie Ward intercepted Russell Wilson in the end zone with 9 seconds left to seal the Texans' 22-17 victory over the Broncos on Sunday.
Ward leapt in front of intended receiver Lucas Krull to secure the fourth victory in five games for Houston (7-5) and snap a five-game winning streak for Denver (6-6). Ward credited the pass rush for allowing him to make the play.
“Sometimes when that pressure gets on you, you make bad decisions and that's what he did,” Ward said.
Wilson was intercepted a season-high three times, all of them after halftime. Derek Stingley Jr. had the first two picks for the Texans. The Broncos had forced 15 turnovers in their winning streak but did not have a takeaway Sunday.
“We win the turnover battle and we won the game and that was the difference,” Houston coach DeMeco Ryans said.
Houston rookie C.J. Stroud threw for 274 yards to end a streak of four straight games with at least 300 yards passing. Another star rookie, Dell, will miss the rest of the season after breaking his left fibula in the first quarter, according to a person familiar with the injury. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce the severity of Dell’s injury.
Texans rookie defensive end Will Anderson Jr., the third overall pick in the draft, had the best game of his young career. The former Alabama star had two sacks, four quarterback hits, deflected one of the balls that Stingley intercepted and deflected a punt.
“What a game by Will,” Ryans said. “That’s what we envisioned when we selected him.”
Wilson threw for 186 yards with a touchdown in Denver’s first loss since Oct. 12.
“I’ll give it to our guys, we continued to battle,” coach Sean Payton said. “We just put ourselves in a little bit too big of a hole today. ... We weren’t able to make enough plays.”
Wilson was asked about the final play and whether he should have tried to throw the ball away since it was third down.
“I saw Krull one-on-one, and tried to put it high for him. They made a play,” Wilson said. “We've got to score a touchdown, obviously, to win the game, and it didn’t go our way.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Wilson's 41-yard pass to Jerry Jeudy got Denver to the 1, and the QB ran for the touchdown on the next play to cut Houston's lead to 22-17.
The Broncos got a stop and were driving on the ensuing possession when Stingley hopped in front of a pass intended for Courtland Sutton to give Houston the ball back.
Stroud was shaken up on a run on the next drive and left the game for two plays while he was examined in the medical tent on the sideline. He returned and was sacked before the Texans punted.
Stroud said the officials thought he was “out of it” after the play and forced him to leave the game to get checked.
Sutton grabbed a 45-yard touchdown pass from Wilson that cut the lead to 16-10 with about five minutes remaining in the third. It was the 329th career TD pass for Wilson, who moved past Dan Marino for second-most in a player’s first 12 seasons.
Stroud was sacked and fumbled on third down on Houston’s next possession, but the Texans got the ball back. They punted, but Stingley intercepted Wilson on Denver’s first play on a ball that was deflected by Anderson.
The Texans cashed in on the miscue when Collins scored on a 3-yard reception on the second play of the fourth quarter. Houston led 22-10 after its 2-point try failed.
Collins had 927 yards receiving combined in his first two NFL seasons. He leads the Texans with 991 yards this year.
“I’m just proud to see his work pay off,” Stroud said. “Blessed to be able to be in a position to feed him like that and he’s definitely stepped up when we needed him to.”
The Texans forced a three-and-out on the first possession of the second half when Anderson sacked Wilson on first down and Jonathan Greenard took him down on third down. Houston pushed the lead to 16-3 on Matt Ammendola's 38-yard field goal.
The Texans led by three in the first quarter when they went for it on fourth-and-2. Houston was called for a false start on the play, but Alex Singleton hit Stroud late to draw an unnecessary roughness penalty and give the Texans a first down at the Broncos 3.
Two plays later, Pierce bulled in for the touchdown to make it 10-0. Dell was injured when he got rolled up at the end of Pierce’s run.
Broncos G Quinn Meinerz left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.
Broncos: Visit the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.
Texans: Visit the New York Jets next Sunday.
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