Mario Williams had his best game at the perfect time.
Last year' No. — pick had a career-high 31/2 sacks to lead the Houston Texans to a 31-13 victory over the Denver Broncos on Thursday night in Houston's first prime-time game in two years.
"This is our first big-stage game," Williams said. "Everybody was watching. We were the only game on. We kind of showed the world what we can do."
With its seventh of the season, Houston tied the franchise record for victories.
When Williams dragged down Jay Cutler for the third time, he jumped up and sashayed like a hula dancer. The dance seemed appropriate with the performance sure to help his push for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
"I know this kid is a tremendous football player," Kubiak said. "I'm just happy that good things keep coming his way."
Texans (7-7) fans yelled "overrated" when Williams was picked, but chanted his name Thursday as he posed Superman-like with his hands on his hips for several seconds after he took Cutler down for the second time.
"With everything that happened with the situation I was in last year and the criticism the owner and the coaches the whole organization had, this was big for us just to show what we could do and what we were capable of," he said."
Williams' performance made him Houston's career sack leader with 171/2. He's had a sack in a team-record five straight games and has 13 for the season and nine in the last five games.
He has the second most sacks in the NFL behind Patrick Kerney (131/2).
"They're getting their money's worth these days, aren't they," Cutler said when asked about Williams.
Williams sack of Cutler forced a fourth down and the Broncos went for it, but the pass fell short, giving Houston the ball.
"He's playing the way we expected him to play," Texans owner Bob McNair said. "But understand that you haven't seen the best of Mario yet. He's going to get even better."
Ron Dayne, who didn't start because of a sore ankle, scored on a 6-yard run on the ensuing drive to push Houston's lead to 17-6. The Texans all seemed amped up for the their first prime time game since 2005 and their first game with the roof open this season.
The normally subdued Dayne, the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner, celebrated his touchdown by striking the Heisman pose. He had 11 carries for 67 yards.
Dayne walked with a visible limp all week, but brushed off questions about how much pain he was in after the game.
"I just wanted to help the team win," he said. "If I wasn't hurting I'd have carried the whole load."
Denver (6-8) got its second straight big game from receiver Brandon Marshall, who finished with 11 receptions for 107 yards.
In the first regular-season meeting between Houston coach Gary Kubiak and Denver's Mike Shanahan, it was the protege who outdid his mentor. Kubiak was Shanahan's offensive coordinator for 11 seasons in Denver.
"The key thing is that the Texans got a big win tonight," Kubiak said. "It wouldn't who (it) was against. We play good football like that they're all sweet."
Shanahan said he told Kubiak he did a "great job."
"You got your team ready to play," Shanahan said he told Kubiak. "You outplayed and outcoached us."
Andre Johnson had a 4-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter for his career-high seventh touchdown of the season. He finished with six receptions for 86 yards.
Williams third sack of Cutler forced the Broncos to punt and the Texans stretched the lead to 31-13 when Vonta Leach scored on a 1-yard run with 3:20 remaining.
William's career day helps Texans tame Broncos