In my latest This Weekend in NFL Stupid column, I issued a very passionate rant about how stupid Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was to punt on a 4th-and-5 down seven points with one timeout and 3:13 remaining against the Oakland Raiders:
“Down seven. Fourth-and-five near midfield. Just over three minutes to play. Texans have just one timeout. And yet O’Brien opts to punt the ball away. Best-case scenario, you’re going to get it back deep in your own territory with no timeouts and 1:45 on the clock, needing a touchdown. But that’s only if you stop an offense that had scored two touchdowns on six fourth-quarter plays. How in the world are your odds better punting than gambling with a high-percentage play on fourth down?
“It often feels as though coaches fail to consider the lack of downside with these types of “gambles” (quotation marks because they aren’t actually gambles at all). Look, if you punt, you need a three-and-out on defense but you’re sacrificing your opportunity to extend the drive. If you don’t punt, you have about a 40 percent chance of extending the drive but if you fail you can still get the ball back with that three-and-out on defense — just deeper down the field.
Essentially, by punting on a fourth-and-five down seven with 3:13 to play, Bill O’Brien was throwing away a 40 percent chance of extending the drive in order to have slightly better field position on a drive that might never happen. Think about just how stupid that is.”
But that wasn’t the only thing O’Brien screwed up in the fourth quarter Monday night. A lot of folks are pointing fingers at the officials for poor third- and fourth-down spots when the Texans were driving inside Oakland territory with the game tied midway through the fourth quarter, but coaches are given challenge flags for a reason. And the truth is, O’Brien challenged the wrong spot. The Texans were screwed not only by the spot they received on third down, but also on second down, and yet O’Brien refused to challenge either spot, leaving his team in a much less stable situation on fourth down.
Let’s take you through it.
This is the moment Lamar Miller’s knee touches on second down…
The ball is about exactly at the 15-yard line.
And yet it was spotted nearly a full yard back of that…
Regardless, Miller clearly had a first down on the next play…
It’s almost as if the officials were spotting the ball where his knee was touching, rather than where the ball was when the knee touched.
But O’Brien again refused to throw the challenge flag and instead gambled that his offense could convert on fourth down.
It certainly looked like Akeem Hunt had the first down on the next play, but this was the least-obvious of the three bad spots…
He’s pretty much right at the spot, but that’s not a clear-cut overturn. And remember, you need indisputable evidence to change the original call.
This officiating crew was bad all night, so why would O’Brien chance it? Had he challenged either of the first two spots, this would be moot. But he inexplicably did not. Combine that with his ridiculous, logically-challenged decision to punt on the next drive, and Bill O’Brien is the primary reason the Texans lost this game.