Texans were up 36-29 and failed on a 2-point conversion to go up 9. Did that decision cost them a win?

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  • Houston Texans
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The Houston Texans were aggressive late.

They went for it on fourth down near the Tennessee Titans’ goal line instead of kicking a field goal to go ahead by four points in the final minutes. That paid off when Brandin Cooks scored a touchdown.

What happened next didn’t work, and it will be debated.

The Texans could have kicked an extra point to go up 37-29. Most coaches would do that. Houston went for two and a nine-point lead, didn’t get it, and the Titans came back to tie the game with four seconds left. The Titans won the coin toss in overtime and scored the winning touchdown on their first drive in overtime.

It didn’t make the Texans’ decision to go for two look any better.

Texans wanted to put the game out of reach

The Texans’ thought process in going for the two-point conversion was pretty clear.

With less than two minutes left, a nine-point lead practically finishes the game. Sure, the Atlanta Falcons have lost games with a 99 percent win probability this season, but it’s not something you see often.

If the Texans were successful on the two-point conversion, the game was all but over. If they missed, even if the Titans drove for a touchdown, they were probably going to kick the extra point and settle for overtime. That’s what happened after A.J. Brown’s touchdown.

If the Texans got the conversion, they likely win the game. If they failed on the conversion, the Titans still had to drive and score a touchdown, make the extra point (not automatic anymore; the Texans missed one earlier) and then win the game in overtime. As it turns out, that’s what happened.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and his team lost to the Titans in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and his team lost to the Titans in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Should Houston have kicked the extra point?

The conventional play is to take the extra point, go up eight points and make the Titans score and also make the two-point conversion. The two-point conversion rate is roughly 50 percent.

At the very least, Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel would have escaped criticism had he gone the conventional route. Or if his defense had gotten a stop on the last drive. Or if his team won the coin toss before overtime. Or if it held the Titans out of the end zone in overtime and then won the game on offense. Coaches who use unconventional strategies and fail get ripped far worse, even if the math makes sense on their decision.

The two-point conversion chart is being rewritten by teams who are digging deep into the analytics. And they’ll never hear the end of it if it doesn’t work out.

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