HOUSTON - Mario Williams had a career-high 31/2 sacks to lead the Houston Texans to a 31-13 victory over the Denver Broncos last night.

Houston (7-7) tied the franchise record for victories.

Texans fans yelled "overrated" when Williams was picked, but chanted his name last night after he sacked Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler for the second time.

The Texans seemed amped-up for their first prime-time game since 2005 and their first game with the roof open this season.

The normally subdued Ron Dayne, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1999, celebrated a touchdown by striking the Heisman pose. The graduate of South Jersey's Overbrook High had 11 carries for 67 yards.

Denver (6-8) got its second straight big game from Brandon Marshall, who finished with 11 receptions for 107 yards.

Vick asked for leniency.

Michael Vick declared "I am not the bad person or beast I've been made out to be" and asked for leniency in a letter to the federal judge who sentenced him to 23 months in prison for a dogfighting conspiracy.

Vick made his handwritten plea from jail as he awaited Monday's sentencing by Judge Henry E. Hudson.

His five-page letter and several others from Vick supporters, including baseball great Hank Aaron and former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, were released by the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., yesterday.

"I take full responsibility for my actions and am ashamed that my actions hurt animals and allowed animals to be hurt and killed," Vick wrote.

The suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback's appeal wasn't enough to overcome Hudson's finding that Vick lied at various times about his hands-on role in helping kill pit bulls and about his marijuana use, which was detected by a drug screening. Hudson cited those lapses in giving Vick a longer sentence than two fellow defendants, who previously were sentenced to 18 months and 21 months.

For the record.

Jerry Rice plans to congratulate Randy Moss if the Patriots receiver breaks Rice's record of 22 touchdown catches in a season.

Rice set the record with the San Francisco 49ers in just 12 games in 1987 when a players' strike shortened the season. Moss already has played 13 games for unbeaten New England and has 19 touchdown receptions.

Falcons

. Quarterback Chris Redman might be the only Atlanta player who supports Bobby Petrino.

A day after many of his teammates called the former coach "a coward" for his abrupt resignation, Redman stood by the man who helped him return to the NFL.

"I appreciated everything he did," Redman said. "Do I agree with the way he left? No, not really, but he left us a note in our locker saying he was doing what was best for him and his family to go ahead and resign. If he feels that way, I wish him the best of luck."

Steelers.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed practice because of a sore right shoulder, with Charlie Batch running the Pittsburgh offense in his place.

Bears.

Kyle Orton slipped out a side door after practice and avoided the media rush, a slick move from a quarterback getting a second chance.

Orton wasn't talking but he will have a chance to make a statement on Sunday when Chicago visits the Minnesota Vikings now that his two-year wait to play is about to end.

The last time Orton was the Chicago Bears' starting quarterback, fans couldn't wait for Rex Grossman to return from a broken ankle. Now, he's getting another chance because Grossman is expected to miss the rest of the season.

Patriots.

New England placed backup defensive lineman Mike Wright on injured reserve with a foot injury, meaning he will miss the remainder of the season.

The Patriots also signed tight end Stephen Spach, who has previously played for the Eagles and Vikings.

Titans.

Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth missed a second consecutive day of practice as he rested his sore right hamstring.

Running back LenDale White, who had the stitches from his right middle finger removed on Wednesday, was rested with a knee problem.

Chargers.

Philip Rivers hobbled through half of practice, increasing the chances he will play in Sunday's home game against Detroit.

Billy Volek would start if Rivers can't.

Ravens.

Owner Steve Bisciotti has told coach Brian Billick he will return next season, The Baltimore Sun reported. The Ravens (4-9) have lost seven straight games, raising questions about Billick's job security.

Raiders.

Josh McCown will start at quarterback for the third straight week but Oakland coach Lane Kiffin has committed to playing time for rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Jurisprudence.

The NFL will hear the appeal by the players' union on behalf of suspended Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones by telephone this afternoon, the Associated Press reported.

Jones dropped his own appeal in June.