For the fourth week in a row, the Texans game came down to the final play. Unlike their last two wins, this time Houston fell short, losing 16-10 to the Carolina Panthers.
"I think we moved the ball a little bit, but we never did," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "We never got a rhythm. So, we have to figure that out."
The defense forced three takeaways in Sunday's loss, all of which were strip sacks on rookie quarterback Josh Allen. However, the Texans offense struggled, converting just 4-of-11 third downs (36%) and scoring in just one of three trips to the red zone.
"Defense created turnovers, we didn't capitalize on them," Deshaun Watson said.
Watson completed 21-of-33 for 160 yards and added three carries for 12 yards and touchdown. Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson combined for 114 yards rushing. DeAndre Hopkins led the receivers with five catches for 41 yards. J.J. Watt recorded a sack for the second consecutive week and also notched two quarterback hits, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Justin Reid finished with 10 tackles, nine solo, and a jersey swap with his older brother Eric Reid, Panthers safety.
"We traded jerseys after the game. I'm sure at Thanksgiving or Christmas we're going to hear about this one again. He earned that. It was still a fun game."
The Texans defense didn't wait long, getting its first turnover on the Panthers opening drive. Brennan Scarlett's strip sack on Kyle Allen was picked up by Benardrick McKinney. The Texans offense took over at their own 19-yard line but were unable to score on the drive.
Panthers took a 3-0 lead following a 48-yard field goal late in the first quarter.
Kenny Stills made 2-of-2 catches for 24 yards but left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return. The Texans finished back-to-back drives in field goal territory. Ka'imi Fairbairn missed his first attempt from 52 yards, but successfully made his second kick of the day from 37 yards. The Texans tied the game 3-3 with 7:59 left in the second quarter.
Whitney Mercilus recorded his fifth sack and fourth forced fumble of the season when he sacked Allen in the second quarter.
The drive ended on a turnover by Houston, when DeAndre Hopkins attempted a pass after a lateral from Watson. Hopkins pass, intended for Carlos Hyde, was picked off by safety Ross Cockrell at the Carolina 9-yard line. Ross added a 37-yard return and the Panthers finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown run by Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers running back finished the game with 93 yards rushing and a touchdown, plus 10 catches for 86 yards receiving.
"He's tough, physical, fast, quick," J.J. Watt said. "He's a great football player. They obviously run their offense through him and you can see why."
The Panthers led 10-3 at halftime.
With 10:34 left in the third quarter, Watt forced a strip sack on Allen and recovered it at the Panthers 18-yard line. Watson and the offense took over as Hyde moved the ball on three consecutive plays. After a short catch added a six-yard gain, Hyde ran for 10 yards to get Houston into a first-and-goal situation. Watson scrambled for a one-yard touchdown run to cap off a four-play, 18-yard drive. The Texans tied the game 10-10 with 8:39 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers regained a 13-10 lead after a 55-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Houston had three possessions in the fourth quarter but was unable to score. On the second-to-last series, Watson fumbled the ball after a sack. Carolina converted the takeaway into a field goal and a 16-10 lead with 31 seconds remaining.
The Texans final possession of the game ended in an unsuccessful Hail Mary pass attempt from the Panthers 47-yard line as time expired.
Houston falls to 2-2 on the season and will next host the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5.