Tuesday morning is here, and we are at the final stages of putting the Houston Texans' shameful loss to the Carolina Panthers in the rear view mirror. For me, this means the unfortunate task of doing a detailed autopsy on what took place at NRG Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
There were 127 plays combined run by both teams in Sunday's 16-10 Panthers victory, but in my mind, ten of them stood out above all others in magnitude and importance in causing a loss for the Houston Texans. So without further ado, here is the latest installment of Houston Texans "How To Lose a Game In 10 Plays." Let's count them down chronologically, shall we?
4th & 23 at HOU 40
(5:06 - 1st) B. Anger punts 19 yards to CAR 41, Center-J. Weeks, downed by HST-J. Addae. Punt deflected by Car #53
This was the end of the Texans' first possession of the game, in which they scratched together three consecutive third down conversions before three straight plays in which they went backwards — a Carlos Hyde 2 yard loss on first down, followed by back to back sacks of Deshaun Watson. On 4th and 23, Bryan Anger's first punt of the day was blocked, giving the Panthers a short field to go get the first three points of the game. (NOTE: The average starting field position for the Panthers on their four scoring drives was the Carolina 44-yard line. Kyle Allen had a nice game, but he didn't need any points, and didn't have to march far for the points he got.)
3rd & 1 at HOU 48
(0:16 - 1st) (Shotgun) D. Watson pass short right to K. Stills ran ob at CAR 38 for 14 yards (S. Thompson).
In the box score, this was a fairly benign play, a 3rd down conversion into Panther territory. Unfortunately, this was the play in which Kenny Stills left with a hamstring injury, making him the 1,000th Houston athlete in the last 12 months to pull a hamstring. Man, you realize how big a part of things Stills had become when he was out of there on Sunday. He's been incredibly valuable.
2nd & 4 at CAR 18
(2:31 - 2nd) D. Hopkins pass short right intended for C. Hyde INTERCEPTED by R. Cockrell at CAR 9. R. Cockrell to CAR 46 for 37 yards (M. Scharping).
We spent plenty of time on this play in Monday's "4 Winners, 4 Losers." All I'll say is "Why, Bill? WHY?!"
1st & 10 at HOU 21
(1:22 - 2nd) (Shotgun) K. Allen pass short right to C. McCaffrey to HST 3 for 18 yards (J. Reid).
McCaffrey piled up a lot of yards (179), but it was on a LOT of touches, 37 in all, and while he had several runs that put the Panthers in decent down and distance spots, and a few catches that moved the chains, this was the one play that actually put the Panthers in position to score a touchdown, an 18-yard catch-and-run where Zach Cunningham was coming in on a delayed blitz up the middle and the defense lost track of McCaffrey in the clutter on a dump pass from Allen. Next play, McCaffrey scored the Panthers' only touchdown of the afternoon.
1st & 10 at HOU 25
(1:08 - 2nd) (Shotgun) D. Watson pass incomplete deep middle to W. Fuller.
2nd & 18 at HOU 32
(13:19 - 3rd) (Shotgun) D. Watson pass incomplete deep middle to D. Hopkins.
I'll group these two plays together, even though they took place in different quarters. Deshaun Watson was only able to get two really good, clean looks at deep shots to his wide receivers. On the first one, on the possession after the Panthers' touchdown, he just missed Fuller on what would have been a 75-yard touchdown, and early in the third quarter, he missed Hopkins on what would have been a huge early message in the second half. Watson was asked about these plays after the game and had one of the better answers you'll see from a QB:
4th & 4 at HOU 37
(14:50 - 4th) J. Slye 55-yard field goal is GOOD, Center-J. Jansen, Holder-M. Palardy.
This field goal gave the Panthers a 13-10 lead, and was crucial insomuch that if Slye misses the kick, the Texans would have gotten the ball at their own 45 yard line in a tie game, early in the fourth quarter. Underrated part of this game was the kicking game — Slye made kicks from 48 and 55 yards. Fairbairn missed one from 52 yards and came within inches of missing his only field goal make of the game from 37 yards.
3rd & 14 at HOU 21
(13:34 - 4th) (Shotgun) D. Watson pass short left to C. Hyde to HST 38 for 17 yards (M. Addison). PENALTY on HST, Illegal Shift, 5 yards, enforced at HST 21 - No Play.
This was just an inexcusable mistake, and a real waste of a tremendous individual effort from Carlos Hyde, who would have converted this third down on a catch and run, where he made multiple guys miss. Instead, Keke Coutee appeared to be confused on where to line up, and Nick Martin snapped the ball before everyone was set, and the Texans end up punting the ball away two plays later.
3rd & 7 at CAR 16
(11:23 - 4th) (Shotgun) K. Allen pass short middle to C. McCaffrey to CAR 24 for 8 yards (J. Reid). Houston challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field stands. (Timeout No. 2.)
Another play we broke down every which way on Monday. Just a mystifying challenge by Bill O'Brien that cost the Texans a timeout that would have come in handy at the end of this game.
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2nd & 6 at HOU 36
(4:11 - 4th) (Shotgun) D. Watson sacked at HST 29 for -7 yards (V. Butler). FUMBLES (V. Butler) [V. Butler], RECOVERED by CAR-E. Reid at HST 33. E. Reid to HST 33 for no gain (D. Johnson).
The rare Watson fourth quarter mistake set up the Panthers with an opportunity for points to close out the game. Even after this, the Texans were in position to make a play to keep the game at 13-10, but alas.....
3rd & 6 at HOU 29
(3:14 - 4th) (Shotgun) K. Allen pass deep right to J. Wright to HST 12 for 17 yards (B. Roby).
Tough to blame J.J. Watt for the loss in this game, in fact, it's impossible to do that. He was, once again, great. But I'm sure he would love to have that play back. If he makes the sack there, the Texans are probably down three, starting with the ball inside their own 15 yard line with two minutes left in regulation. Instead, they eventually got the ball back down SIX points with 25 seconds left. It's a game of inches.