Fourth down miscues by both the offense and defense in yesterday's defeat helped doom the Texans. According to Head Coach Lovie Smith, they were mirror images of each other, but with opposite results.
"It was the same play that we missed on fourth down," Smith said Monday. "It was the same play that they hit there at the end. One (the Chargers offense) converted it on their 4th-and-2. Our (Texans offense) 4th-and-1, different formation, same play, we just didn't play it the proper way."
Just after the 2-minute warning in the second quarter of the home loss to the Chargers, Houston's offense faced a 4th-and-1 at the Los Angeles 24-yard line. Trailing 21-7, Head Coach Lovie Smith decided to go for it instead of attempting what would've been a 42-yard field goal. Defensive end Khalil Mack came through unblocked and sacked Davis Mills for a loss of eight yards. Nine plays later, the Chargers kicked a field goal and went into the locker room with a 24-7 halftime advantage.
On the play, running back Dameon Pierce was on the sideline. He needed just 14 carries to gain 131 yards and a score on Sunday, but Smith explained why the rookie's absence on the field had nothing to do with the outcome of the play.
"We busted an assignment on the line of scrimmage to let a guy go free," Smith said Monday. "That was a pass play that the quarterback could possibly even keep the ball on. It had nothing to do with our tailback."
The Texans fought their way back into the game in the second half and a Ka'imi Fairbairn 40-yard field goal at 8:30 mark in the fourth quarter pulled Houston to within three, 27-24. On the ensuing possession, the Texans defense faced a 4th-and-2, needing to stop the Chargers from getting to their own 47-yard line. Each team called a timeout before the snap.
"We wanted to be aggressive in that area," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said. "We wanted to try and win this game. We felt like we had the play to do it and executed it very well."
Quarterback Justin Herbert executed it splendidly. He faked a handoff, rolled right, and found Austin Ekeler all by his lonesome for a 21-yard gain. Five plays later, that same duo linked up again on a similar play and scored from 14 yards, and the Chargers held a 34-24 advantage with 2:28 remaining.
"The one drive where we needed to make a play, we let them convert on fourth down," Smith said. "They were able to go down and score on that one. We didn't communicate it the right way."
Smith and the Texans travel to Jacksonville this weekend and will face the Jaguars on Sunday at noon CT.