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Denver 20, Houston 14

HOUSTON (AP) -- Jake Plummer accomplished his goal to get an
early touchdown for the Denver Broncos, then turned the game over
to the guys hoping to be his understudy.

Bradlee Van Pelt and Matt Mauck both made their case.

Todd Devoe broke free with a short pass from Mauck, then
scampered 92 yards late in the fourth quarter to provide the
winning margin in the Broncos' 20-14 preseason victory over the
Houston Texans on Saturday night.

Devoe, who spent his rookie year last season on the Baltimore
practice squad, broke a tackle inside his own 20, then raced down
the sideline for the touchdown with 4:18 to go in the game.

The late score came after Van Pelt, who played more than half
the game, improved his chances to become Plummer's chief relief by
leading the Broncos to a pair of field goals by Jason Elam.

"It felt good to get out there but I wanted to play better,"
Van Pelt said. "I wanted to get some touchdowns and hit some more
passes. I felt I played below what I was capable of."

Denver coach Mike Shanahan gave Van Pelt a positive review.

"This was his first game and you could see his athletic
ability," Shanahan said. "I'm proud of the way we came back and
had a big-time drive against an excellent defense."

Van Pelt, who was 10-for-17 for 107 yards, spent all of last
season on the practice squad and hadn't appeared in a game since
last preseason. He took over early in the second quarter for
Plummer, who played three series and tossed a 3-yard TD pass to
tight end Stephen Alexander that tied the game at 7.

"We wanted to score on the very first drive to get the guys off
the field," Plummer said. "We got a touchdown in the red zone,
and that's what we needed.

"I feel real relaxed out there. There were a couple of
situations where they just had the perfect defense for what we had
called, and that's going to happen sometimes."

The Broncos, who retooled their defensive line by dipping into
the free-agent market in the offseason, got a lift early when the
Texans failed to score after a first-and-goal the 1.

Four straight running plays by Domanick Davis went nowhere, even
with 328-pound defensive end Robaire Smith making his debut as a
blocking back in the short-yardage situation.

It was the lone series for starting quarterback David Carr, who
threw just two passes, completing one for 15 yards, and ran for
another 11 yards.

He was not sacked in his brief appearance, however, a priority
this year for the Texans, who allowed a league-worst 49 sacks last
season.

"We executed pretty much flawlessly, except when we got down
obviously inside the 1-yard-line we'd like to get that in," Carr
said. "There's no doubt they're going to be able to 9 million more
times after this. That was just a great job by their defense."

Davis said, "The guys just pinched down and brought the outside
guys and kind of just cramped down on me at the line. I didn't put
it in, but before that I think we did pretty good moving the
ball."

Taking over for Carr, Tony Banks moved the Texans 44 yards in
six plays, connecting with backup tight end Matt Murphy down the
middle for a 31-yard touchdown that gave Houston a 7-0 lead in the
first quarter.

Plummer didn't start clicking until the Broncos' third
possession, when he took them 76 yards in 10 plays, finishing with
the scoring pass to Alexander.

That was it for Plummer, who last year tied a Denver record with
27 TD passes but also led the league with 20 interceptions. He was
6-for-10 for 60 yards, and no interceptions, giving way to Van
Pelt.

"This is the is the first time he's been out there without
coaches standing around there yelling at him," Plummer said of Van
Pelt. "He's an outstanding athlete and I thought he played well
after missing all this time."

On his first series, Van Pelt, a seventh-round pick in 2004,
completed just two of five passes but put the Broncos into scoring
position at the Texans 26 with a 40-yard run on a third-and-4.

"It was a quarterback draw and a crease opened up and I decided
to run," Van Pelt said. "That helped my confidence a lot. But I
made a lot of mistakes that will drive me nuts tonight. They will
show up later on the film."

Van Pelt tried to connect with Jerry Rice in the end zone, but
missed the NFL's career leader in receptions. Rice is hoping to
land a spot with Denver and a 21st year in the league.

He finished with one catch for six yards.

The Texans made it close when third-stringer Dave Ragone threw a
10-yard TD pass to LaTerance Dunbar with 1:52 to go in the game.

The Broncos, trying to sort out running backs, started Mike
Anderson, a former offensive Rookie of the Year coming back after a
groin injury sidelined him all of last season. Anderson finished
with 12 yards on six carries.