HOUSTON -- Jake Plummer made it look easy, a rare feat in his NFL career.
Plummer, who landed in Denver this offseason after six seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cole and looked comfortable in the Broncos' 20-12 victory over the Houston Texans.
|Broncos WR Chris Cole, who scored a TD, is OK after being flipped upside down.(AP)|
"It was our first preseason game and I thought we looked crisp," said Plummer, signed to replace Brian Griese, who is now in Miami. "We were able to move the ball on their defense and got it down in the end zone. I definitely think we have room to improve, but overall we looked good."
Denver coach Mike Shanahan was pleased with his newest pupil at quarterback.
"One throw had big-time touch, and a couple of times he made great throws on the run," Shanahan said.
As for Texans quarterback David Carr, who set an NFL record last season by being sacked 76 times, his new-look offensive line protected him well for the quarter-plus he played.
The one time Carr went down - when center Todd Washington stepped on his foot, causing Carr to trip when he received the snap - it was counted as a rush attempt and not a sack.
Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft, finished 4-for-7 for 29 yards before yielding to Tony Banks.
"Other than my getting stepped on by an offensive lineman, I thought everything else went smooth," Carr said. "We did what we wanted to do."
Another new face in a new place was Texans running back Stacey Mack, who gained 49 yards on 14 carries. Mack is vying for a starting job after backing up Fred Taylor in Jacksonville for his first four NFL seasons.
Mack was complementary of the revamped offensive line, which featured four new faces from last year including Washington, who was starting in place of injured center Steve McKinney.
"They did a nice job," Mack said. "They were coming off the ball and they were clearing good holes for me."
Jason Elam hit a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 50-yarder in the third to make it 13-6. Later that period, Texans rookie quarterback Dave Ragone hit tight end Rashod Kent on the left side and Kent managed to stick the ball over the goal line for a 16-yard touchdown.
Chad Stanley bobbled the hold on the point-after and was buried by Broncos.
Denver's Marlion Jackson made it 20-12 late in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard TD run.
Houston coach Dom Capers was gratified that the Texans, the league's most penalized team last year, were flagged just three times.
"I liked what I saw from the physical nature of the game," Capers said. "I thought we were a smarter team tonight."
While the Texans are still a work in progress on offense, the Broncos are adjusting to first-year defensive coordinator Larry Coyer's scheme.
"Some things are tough to learn, but we are starting to really pick it up," linebacker Al Wilson said. "We still have a lot to learn, but we are getting better every day."
Brown started the scoring with a 49-yard field goal early in the first quarter, but Plummer answered with a relaxed nine-play, 73-yard TD drive, mixing rollout passes with runs by last season's top offensive rookie, Clinton Portis.
Portis finished with 23 yards on six carries.
"It was good to see us put together a long drive and keep the ball for a long time," Portis said.
The Texans, among the worst teams in time of possession in 2002, then held the ball for more than seven minutes on a 12-play drive that ended in a 27-yard field goal by Todd Sievers.
The Broncos' primary backup quarterback, Steve Beuerlein, sat out so coach Mike Shanahan could get a look at understudies Jarious Jackson and Danny Kanell. Jackson led Denver's two field goal drives while Kanell drove for the late touchdown.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved