Foe the Houston Texans, the play in the picture above was from a much happier time and place, a Brock Osweiler one-yard QB sneak giving them their only touchdown of the afternoon in Sunday's 21-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The joy would be short-lived, though, as the Texans, treating prosperity like some sort of disease, would cough up the lead and, in effect, the game over the next ten minutes of play.
By halftime, the score was 14-7, but the feel of the game was all too ominous. The Texans weren't getting out of first gear offensively on Sunday. It's just so sad watching this team try to run their offense, in grade-school-level fits and starts, all jerky and awkward, like watching a shih tzu try to mate with a hippo.
Again, the game was a 60-minute game, but it was effectively lost in the roughly ten minutes from the 11:04 mark to the 0:48 mark of the second quarter, and in that time frame, ten plays stood out above the rest as reasons and symbols for the Texans' ineptitude.
Reliving the magic, here are those ten plays:
PLAYS 1, 2, and 3 - The Penalty Parade
1st and 10, SD 26 yard line
11:04 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Antonio Smith lined up in the neutral zone, five yard penalty
Much the same way that it's not a party until something gets broken, it's not a Texans game until Antonio Smith gets an offside penalty. This negated a Chargers run for no gain, and what would have been a 2nd and 10. But the Texans weren't done...
1st and 5, SD 31 yard line
10:34 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Jadeveon Clowney lined up in neutral zone, offsetting a holding call on San Diego
So on back-to-back plays, the Texans had offside issues, and on this second one, it negated a hold by the Chargers. The frustrating thing about these penalties is that, according to Clowney, they knew this particular officiating crew is flag-happy on line-of-scrimmage calls. And yet still, Clowney lined up like this...
Clowney offsides #2 - I know the blue line isn't actually ON the field, but how does Clowney not see he's lined up past the ball? Jeez .. pic.twitter.com/uRWTH112MZ— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) November 28, 2016
Seriously, how does Clowney line up there and NOT see he is totally offside? Does he have vertigo or something? By the way, Clowney would pick up three five-yard offside penalties in the first half alone. Yay.
2nd and 5, SD 31 yard line
9:55 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: A.J. Bouye hands to the face, five-yard penalty
Bouye had a strange afternoon. He tackled very well in space, had a tipped ball on Quintin Demps's interception and defended a few passes along the way. On the other hand, he had three penalties and gave up the Chargers' second touchdown of the afternoon on a crossing route to Tyrell Williams, although Bouye had pretty good coverage on that particular play. This penalty moved the chains and was the third Texans penalty in around a minute of game time, and just a few plays later...
PLAY 4 - Demps on Skates
2nd and 8, SD 48 yard line
6:52 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Dontrelle Inman 52-yard touchdown catch
This was a rough play for Demps, who was giving a massive cushion to Inman, lined up in the slot. On the snap, Demps sprinted toward the line, overcommitted to an Inman hitch, and then stumbled when he needed to turn and chase...
This tied the game at seven apiece. The Texans got the ball back and actually had three productive offensive plays in a row to start the next drive:
1st and 10-HOU 25
(6:44) 17 - B. Osweiler pass short left to 15-W. Fuller ran ob at HOU 38 for 13 yards [54-M. Ingram].
1st and 10-HOU 38
(6:08) 26 - L. Miller right guard to HOU 45 for 7 yards (52-D. Perryman).
2nd and 3-HOU 45
(5:31) 26 - L. Miller left guard to HOU 49 for 4 yards (37 -J. Addae, 99 -J. Bosa).
A couple of first downs...feelin' good...but this would be the last time the Texans would be operating with a positive win probability all afternoon, because on the next play...
PLAY 5 - Interception Story, Episode I
1st and 10, HOU 49 yard line
4:55 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Brock Osweiler throws an interception to Chargers CB Casey Hayward
This play was a mess from jump, as the right side of the offensive line, as well as Jay Prosch on leaky blitz pickup, got caved in and Osweiler was running for his life from the get-go. He got out of the pocket clean, and threw to Hopkins, who was cutting toward the sideline. The throw, however, was behind Hopkins, and Hayward did a nice job of breaking in front of Hopkins and keeping his feet in bounds as he secured the ball.
So, with the score tied at seven, the Chargers got the ball back, and on a third and short...
PLAY 6 - Cush-lash
3rd and 1, HOU 39 yard line
2:35 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Melvin Gordon 18-yard run for a first down
This play was a brutal look for Brian Cushing, who got buried attacking the wrong gap, and Gordon was allowed to not only pick up the first down, but a whole lot more. On the next play...
PLAY 7 - Rivers of Greatness
1st and 10, HOU 21 yard line
2:00 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Philip Rivers 21-yard TD pass to Tyrell Williams
As I mentioned earlier, Bouye actually had decent coverage on this play, but the throw was a Hall of Fame throw by Rivers.
The Texans got the ball back with enough time to go down and get points, assuming they had an offense that was anywhere above 32nd in DVOA. But alas, the Texans are 32nd in offensive DVOA...and boy did they live down to it on this series, starting with 1st down...
PLAY 8 - Chris Clark, El Matador
1st and 10, HOU 25 yard line
1:54 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Chris Clark holding penalty after getting beaten by DE Joey Bosa
Bosa absolutely fried poor Chris Clark on this play, practically waltzing past him untouched and forcing Clark to reach back and grab Bosa's arm, like a parent trying to grab a hyperactive six-year-old at an amusement park. So the Texans got another shot at first down...this time on 1st and 20.
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PLAY 9 - Mancz and Clark, Matador tag team
1st and 20, HOU 15 yard line
1:47 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Osweiler sacked by Damion Square and Joey Bosa
This time, the Texans cut out the middleman, and just went ahead and allowed the sack. Screw the penalty.
PLAY 10 - One (Penalty) To Grow On
4th and 13, HOU 22 yard line
0:48 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Illegal man downfield penalty negates a net 56-yard punt by Shane Lechler
In a first half in which they had eight penalties on offense and defense, the Texans had to hit for the cycle and get a penalty on special teams, too. This one not only negated a fantastic punt by Lechler and superb coverage on the return, but it forced the Texans to re-kick. The odds of the Texans performing effectively on two straight special teams plays are just too difficult to calculate. No way it can happen. And it didn't. Lechler's punt was 16 yards shorter, the Chargers return was 6 yards longer, and the Chargers were set up at around midfield, giving them a short field to try to tack on three more points. The Texans' only saving grace was a missed field goal on the final play of the half, as a sea of boos cascaded down onto the field.
Yeah, the score was 14-7. But it was pretty much over. Ten minutes, ten bad plays.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.