The line between winning and losing is razor thin, this we know. The winless Houston Texans have blown three consecutive winnable games due to a lack of depth, questionable coaching decision, and outright Houston Texans-esque SNAFUs.
The Texans have had second-half leads in all three games and have committed equal or less turnovers in all three games. They defense has looked proficient and outright dominant at times against three of the leagues most promising offenses to begin the season.
What the Texans have always lacked like a Scarlett Letter is the ability to win games in decisive moments. Even in either of the Watson or Schaub era, fans can viscerally point to games where the moment was far too big for the team and it’s coaches.
This season, with the dearth bona-fide game-changers on the roster, that motif has been excruciatingly evident.
Texans 20 - Colts 6, 2nd and 6 on the Texans 29 with 9:50 remaining in the 4th Quarter
The Texans are starting their drive after a Derek Stingley Jr. pass breakup in the end zone stymies the Colts best drive of the game. It’s still a two-possession game and a quality drive by the Texans meandering offense can effectively end the game.
Supposed world class left tackle Laremy Tunsil goes into tunnel vision and doesn’t recognize the blitz package. He allowed LB EJ Speed a clear shot on Davis Mills’ blindside, who fumbles the ball and turns it over in the Texans 21 yard line.
This is quite possibly one of the hardest hits I’ve seen on Mills. That’s a sledgehammer to an unprepared QB. This comes down to communication and practice. Yes, lineman are taught to block inside-out. And at the time of him committing, that’s rookie left guard Kenyon Green next to him. Even so, communication and play needs to improve to avoid this soul-sucking play from happening.
The defense, who just stood their ground on an 11-play, 76 yard drive now only has two plays off and is backed against their end zone. It’s a deflating revelation and begins the unraveling of an exhausted Texans defense.
After the game, Tunsil told the media “there was a lot of miscommunication everywhere”, which is blatantly obvious. After this play the Colts would go on to score two touchdowns in under 10 minutes.
Texans 9 - Broncos 6, 3rd and 15 with 15:00 minutes remaining in the 4th Quarter,
To this point, the Houston Texans and Broncos have wagered an inept war of offenses for three quarters. That’s about to change as the Broncos face a third and 15 after a 15-yard penalty for a chop block on second down. Broncos only offense was missed tackles by the Texans and beating Stingley down the field. They picked on Stingley for the game-changing play once more.
With plenty of time against the Texans four-man rush, Wilson spots Sutton seeping in between the zone coverage for the Broncos biggest play of the game.
Watch as Sutton evades the secondary on an extended Slugo route. It’s a well crafted play right out of the Seahawk playbook. Tyler Lockett ran this often.
Sure, we can blame Tytus Howard’s botched block while the Texans were driving, but if the Texans stop the Broncos here on this long first down conversion, the Texans can control the clock and game from here on out.
Texans 20 - Bears 20, 3rd and 12 with 1:12 Remaining in the Fourth Quarter
Honorary mention must go to the tight end screen call on third and 14 from the Chicago Bears 43. The play call was abysmal and the execution was inept. An utter waste of time even if the effort was to try to get into field goal range.
This will be Mills fifth or sixth possible game winning drive in three weeks. He’s had countless attempts to string one together and has utterly failed thus far. But frankly it’s both not and is his fault. RB Rex Burkhead was in fact open at the first down line. It simply took him two seconds too many to recognize this.
What’s worse... there were multiple players open. That includes Brandin Cooks in the flats to the right. Mills was staring down the right side of the field so it’s a wonder why he wasn’t able to identify either Cooks nor his check down Burkhead.
Oh noooo. Brandin Cooks was open on that 3rd-and-1 play that resulted in a game-ending interception.— Jonathan M Alexander (@jonmalexander) September 26, 2022
Davis Mills went to Rex Burkhead instead. pic.twitter.com/Z4RemPFUBB
Even Lovie Smith agrees with our sentiment on the importance of this play.
Lovie Smith on Davis Mills late interception: 'That was a critical moment.'— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 25, 2022
Looking back, there’s two inflection points within each game. One usually consists of a critical error, whether that be mental or physical, and then the other is the opposite team forcing us to make mistakes. Kudos to other teams being, well professional. Even so, habitual inadvertent errors are the bane of any winning franchise. And that’s what we will continue to strive to be... just don’t know if any of these players will be a part of the team when that happens.