The Houston Texans went into CenturyLink Field and gave the Seattle Seahawks a game for the ages. Deshaun Watson was fearless, dropping dimes on the Legion of Boom and guiding his team to a 38-34 lead late in the game. When the defense picked off Russell Wilson, all Houston had to do was get one more first down and bleed the clock.
Unfortunately, Bill O’Brien went too conservative yet again and took the ball out of Watson’s hands. The Texans left too much time for Wilson, who needed only three plays to go 80 yards and win the game for the Seahawks.
Jeanna Thomas already covered this mistake earlier in the week, so I’ll try to avoid retreading ground here. But it was egregious enough to lead off this week’s column.
The main gist is that the Texans played not to lose, which is typically a losing strategy, anyway.
Here’s what O’Brien called:
A Lamar Miller run for 4 yards.
A Watson quarterback keeper for 8 yards and a first down.
A Miller run for 1 yard on first down.
A Miller run for 5 yards on second down.
A Miller run for 2 yards on third-and-4.
Watson was averaging 8.4 yards per carry against Miller’s 2.6. Early in the game, he showed off his awareness by telling Alfred Blue to block for him so he could get a first down. He managed to make big plays when his team needed them against the Seahawks, like this 2-yard touchdown pass to Miller, even while under pressure. And O’Brien took the ball out of his hands on the drive that could have locked up the win.
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because the same thing happened in Week 3. Watson went toe-to-toe with one of the best quarterbacks in football (Tom Brady, in this case) and did everything he needed to win, only for his team to meekly give the game away. This is why the Texans are 3-4 despite having one of the most electric rookie quarterbacks we’ve seen in years.
O’Brien isn’t in danger of getting fired soon, but things could be coming to a head, either way. His contract expires after the 2018 season, and sources tell SB Nation that the Texans are wondering if he’s the right man to lead Watson in the future. It’s a tough question with few easy answers, but O’Brien didn’t help his own cause with yet another case of cold feet in crunch time.
So O’Brien made the biggest coaching mistake of Week 8, but as always, he was far from the only one. Let’s go over some of the bigger gaffes from Sunday and Monday.
The Lions goal-line offense ... woof
Imagine throwing for 423 yards and not scoring a single touchdown. That’s the reality Matthew Stafford lived on Sunday night, when the Lions could manage only five field goals in a 20-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Lions got inside the red zone five times and came away with zero touchdowns.
The most egregious failure came in the third quarter, when Detroit had first-and-goal at the 4 and were down 13-12. The Lions eventually decided to go for it on fourth down, which is a rare gutsy call from Jim Caldwell. However, Stafford was stuffed on a QB sneak, and the Lions turned it over on downs. Three plays later, JuJu Smith-Schuster parted the Lions defense like the Red Sea on a 97-yard touchdown, essentially icing the game.
The Lions had one last shot to win it at the end, getting first-and-10 at the Steelers’ 11. Once again, they failed to find the end zone. On fourth-and-7 from the 8, Stafford somehow threw it short of the sticks, and the ball bounced off Eric Ebron’s chest.
That’s now three straight losses for the Lions, who sit at 3-4 and failed to take advantage of Aaron Rodgers’ injury in a wide-open NFC North. In short:
“Coach we need to decide if we’re going to kick or go for it. Coach? COACH.”— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) October 30, 2017
*thinks about whether he wants to eat mashed potatoes or not* pic.twitter.com/89Uvq2nq9r
Andy Reid gets cute again
The Kansas City Chiefs have a really fun offense when it’s clicking, but when things go wrong they go embarrassingly wrong.
KC jumped out to an early 14-0 lead over the Denver Broncos and drove down to the goal line after picking off Trevor Siemian. This was their chance to go up, 21-0, and put the Broncos to the sword on Monday night. Instead, Reid tried to outsmart himself with a trick play and Tyreek Hill was ... uh, not up to the task:
On the bright side, Hill has more interceptions than Alex Smith this season.
It didn’t end up mattering in the end — the Chiefs came out on top, 29-19. But when you get that close to the end zone and end the drive with zero points, that’s less than ideal.
The Browns misuse their timeouts
There isn’t much more to say about the Cleveland Browns at this point. At least DeShone Kizer didn’t throw an interception in this week’s loss, so there’s that. Otherwise, they were mostly bystanders in London as the Minnesota Vikings walked to a 33-16 win.
That said, blowing their chances is what the Browns do, so let’s go over one here. They actually had a 13-9 lead at the end of the second quarter when Kizer ran in from the goal line with 42 seconds left. However, Cleveland needlessly burned a timeout before the play, giving the Vikings extra time they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Case Keenum drove down and set up a field goal, cutting the Browns’ lead to 13-12. The Vikings outscored them, 21-3, in the second half.
Hue Jackson is now 1-23 in his Browns tenure.
The Bucs’ season is going down the toilet
When you’re 2-4 and getting boatraced by a division rival, wouldn’t you try at least a little harder?
Koetter will never stop punting in opponent territory will he?— Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) October 29, 2017
Apparently not. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the year as trendy playoff picks, but they dropped to 2-5 after a 17-3 shellacking by the Carolina Panthers, with Jameis Winston showing little signs of progress and Dirk Koetter looking in over his head. It’s a bitterly disappointing season for a franchise that keeps taking one step forward but two steps back.
Kyle Shanahan is settling for field goal despite being down 19 points
The San Francisco 49ers went for a 27-yard field goal when they needed touchdowns to have a prayer of getting back in it. It got blocked, because sometimes life finds a way.
Maybe they’ll go for it next time with Jimmy Garoppolo instead of C.J. Beathard. Who knows?