We’ve already gone over the two-play sequence that sealed a tie instead of a possible win for the Houston Texans in their 20-20 Week 1 result against the Indianapolis Colts. On third-and-1 from the Indianapolis 47 with 40 seconds left, the decision was to give the ball to running back Rex Burkhead. The veteran lost two yards on the play, while preseason stud back Dameon Pierce, who had bullied the NFL to date, was not apparently an option.
Then, on fourth-and-3 from the Indy 49 and 26 seconds left, Smith made the call to punt for a tie. Which worked in the end if you want a tie, but the events didn’t make a ton of sense.
“Because I felt like a tie was better than a loss in that situation,” head coach Lovie Smith said after the game. “It’s a decision that you make. If you would guarantee that we were going to get it, then it was good. But if you miss it right there and they had stuffed us on the play, they have one play and they’re in position. It’s not like we were playing our best defense at the time. We were drained. We were gassed a little bit. That’s how it goes. In an ideal world, you don’t want a loss, you want a win, but if you can’t get the win, sometimes you settle for the tie. A lot of football left to go in the season.”
That sequence made our list of Week 1’s worst coaching decisions, but there was one other play that could have put the game away for Smith’s team. When offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, quarterback Davis Mills, and receiver Chris Moore watch this play together in their film room today, there will certainly be a conversation.
With 21 seconds left in the first half and the Texans up 10-3, Mills hit Nico Collins for 18 yards from the Houston 25-yard line, which got the ball to the Houston 43-yard line. An impressive play.
But if you look at the overhead, as the Texans will… well, there was an easy touchdown over the top that Mills just missed.
Because I am nice, I will not torment Texans fans with this Davis Mills 18-yard in-cut to Nico Collins with 21 seconds left in the first half in a drive that ended with no points in a tie game.
I would certainly advise that you avoid looking at the deep over from the slot. pic.twitter.com/rWWu52Nvkz
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) September 12, 2022
Chris Miller ran that deep over route from the left slot, and Colts safety Julian Blackmon as the last line of defense in single-high zone — which, under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, you will see on approximately 125% of Indianapolis’ defensive plays this season. The linebackers were carrying underneath, and you can see Blackmon drive down to Collins as Miller starts to extend his route. This would been a wide-open touchdown, and Mills had the time in the pocket to throw it. He keyed on Collins, and it was a plus play, but it could have been a lot, well, “plus-er.”
After the game, Mills spoke about what went wrong after the Texans built a 20-3 lead, and then threw it away.
“We’ve got to be on the same page with my receivers. Sometimes I thought I could have been held onto the ball a little bit longer. The offensive line for the most part of the game did a really good job protecting their guys. I had time all night. Just simple execution that we can continue to work on and stress. I think overall we’re close. That was a football team that practically shut us out two times last year, and I thought we played well the whole night. Defense and special teams played well. Offense, we did some really good things. But the result shows. We’ve got a lot to work on, and we’re ready for it.”
It’s as if Mills was thinking of this play when he said it. If not,when discovers Miller wide open on the over, it will certainly be an Unhappy Film Room this morning.