In a hard-fought game on Sunday afternoon in Houston between two of the AFC's surprise teams on the rise, the Texans managed to go up to the top of the standings with a 22-17 victory over the Broncos, improving to 7-5 while Denver dropped to 6-6. When the Broncos had one more possession to win the game, safety Jimmie Ward of Houston caught Wilson's third interception for the Texans, securing the victory.

Houston Texans safety Jimmie Ward (1) reacts after he intercepted a pass in the endzone in the final seconds of the game during the football game between the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 3, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Houston Texans safety Jimmie Ward (1) reacts after he intercepted a pass in the endzone in the final seconds of the game during the football game between the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 3, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After 13 weeks, the win enables Houston to remain in contention for the seventh and last playoff berth in the AFC, trailing only the Indianapolis Colts. Houston, which selected C.J. Stroud with the second overall pick in the draught, had a lot more productive and tidy day because of their rookie quarterback. Stroud completed 16 of 27 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown. With 3,540 passing yards this season, Stroud has become the first rookie since at least 1950 to lead the NFL in passing yards after a week. The Philadelphia Eagles selected Davey O'Brien, the fourth overall pick in the 1939 NFL Draught, as their first rookie quarterback to lead the league in passing yards for a whole season. 

 Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) slides as Houston Texans safety Jimmie Ward (1) prepares for a big hit during the football game between the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 3, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) slides as Houston Texans safety Jimmie Ward (1) prepares for a big hit during the football game between the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 3, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wilson was intercepted twice by Texans second-year cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., the third overall choice in the 2022 NFL Draught, setting a career high for interceptions. In the past three games, he has intercepted four passes. With three interceptions, one touchdown throw, and 186 passing yards, Wilson tied for the second-most in a game throughout his 12-year career. Wilson had an incredible effort considering that he led the NFL in touchdowns-to-interceptions (20-4) going into Week 13. 

Derek Stingley Jr. #24 of the Houston Texans makes an interception past Courtland Sutton #14 of the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Derek Stingley Jr. #24 of the Houston Texans makes an interception past Courtland Sutton #14 of the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Both Texans rookie receiver Tank Dell (carried off after an ankle injury) and Broncos All-Pro cornerback Pat Surtain II (left knee trouble) suffered injuries that affected the game, but Houston was able to overcome them considerably better. Nico Collins had a career-high 191 receiving yards and nine catches after Stroud completed two passes of over 50 yards (52 and 59) and one of 39 yards. Early in the fourth quarter, he also caught Stroud's lone touchdown throw of the game, a 3-yard ball to the left corner of the end zone that increased the score to 22-10. NFL Media reports that with Dell sidelined for the season due to a fractured fibula, Collins will likely play an even bigger role for the Texans moving forward. 

Jerry Jeudy #10 of the Denver Broncos runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Jerry Jeudy #10 of the Denver Broncos runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

In addition to Collins' and Stingley's fantastic days, rookie third-round draught selection Will Anderson Jr. had a breakthrough performance on Sunday, recording a career-high two sacks. In his first 11 games of this season, he only had three. The Broncos were 0 for 11 on third downs, as the Houston defence kept the Denver offence from converting on third downs. The Broncos did not convert on a third down on Sunday for the first time since a 1995 game vs the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite Houston only running four more offensive plays than Denver, 63-59, the Texans outgained the Broncos 353-282.

Grayland Arnold #25 and Steven Nelson #21 of the Houston Texans celebrate in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)
Grayland Arnold #25 and Steven Nelson #21 of the Houston Texans celebrate in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

Why the Texans won:

Throughout the game, their defence stopped the Broncos from finding any rhythm, stopping them from converting on third down three times and intercepting Wilson three times. Whenever a team wins the turnover fight 3-0, they usually end up winning. After Surtain II departed the game, Collins had a field day with 191 yards and a touchdown on nine catches against the Broncos secondary. Houston's defence won the day, and their offence only did enough to get by. 

Why the Broncos lost:

Except in the final seconds of the first half, nine of Denver's thirteen possessions resulted in punts (six times) or interceptions (three times). That is just not a formula for success in football at any level, let alone the NFL. Wilson's 45-yard touchdown and his 41-yard toss to Jerry Jeudy, which set him up for the following play's 1-yard quarterback sneak, were two of his highlights. The good news was that there weren't many of them. 

Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass while being tackled by Will Anderson Jr. #51 of the Houston Texans in the second quarter at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass while being tackled by Will Anderson Jr. #51 of the Houston Texans in the second quarter at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
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