The major officiating controversy on Thursday night centered on the decision not to review a fumble by Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, which the Colts claimed they recovered but the on-field officials awarded to the Texans. But that controversy overshadowed another mistake that went against the Colts at the same time.
During the period when the officials were sorting out what happened on Watson’s fumble, the game clock was running but the play clock was not. That meant the Texans got to take about 13 more seconds off the clock between plays than they should have. Those 13 seconds turned out to be important, as the Colts would have gotten the ball back if that extra time hadn’t run off the clock.
The play on which Watson fumbled was blown dead with 1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the clock running. Before the next snap, the Texans called a timeout with one second remaining on the play clock and 50 seconds remaining on the game clock. That shouldn’t have been possible, as a maximum of 40 seconds should run off the clock between plays in that situation. Instead it was 53 seconds that went off the clock.
Without those 13 seconds, the Texans wouldn’t have run the final play they chose, on which Watson simply heaved the ball deep downfield on fourth down to take the remaining time off the clock. If there had been another 13 seconds on the clock, the Texans probably would have punted on fourth down, and the Colts would have gotten the ball back.
Obviously, the Colts still would have been unlikely to win the game, as they would have had time to run only one or two plays, starting deep in their own territory. But they should have had the opportunity to try, and a clock error deprived them of it.