HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans are lamenting their mistakes and missed opportunities after a last-second loss to the previously winless Carolina Panthers.
Houston (3-4) had a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before a delay-of-game penalty on third down knocked them out of field-goal range and forced a punt. The Panthers took over and Bryce Young led them on a 15-play drive, capped by a 23-yard field goal as time expired to get the 15-13 victory.
“When you have penalties, you have errors that hurt yourself, you’re playing against your own self. So, it’s hard,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “When you put yourself in the hole, you have to find a way to mitigate those penalties, those negative plays, and help ourselves. When we continue to do that, we’ll play good ball, and we’ll win games.”
Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud thought he got that critical play off in time but knows he can’t let mistakes like that happen.
“I could have sworn I seen it go down to two,” he said. “At one, I snapped it, and they called it. I’m a player. I can’t go back and try to combat that. ... It happens, but we’ve got to get better getting in and out of the huddle. I’ve got to split the players out better and snap the ball.”
Of course, that penalty was far from Houston’s only problem on Sunday. Stroud had a season-low 140 yards passing after entering the game averaging more than 276 yards per game.
The Texans had shown a knack for making big plays on offense but didn’t have any against Carolina. Houston had just one play longer than 20 yards against a defense that had allowed 84 points and 12 touchdowns in its last two games combined.
The Panthers batted down four of Stroud’s passes at the line of scrimmage on a day he managed just 5.8 yards a throw. Houston also struggled on third down, converting 5 of 12 opportunities.
“We have the talent to be explosive, and I think we’ve shown that ... we can do it,” Stroud said. “We’ve just got to go out there and call it and run it and execute. I feel like that’s why we haven’t been consistent. Too many taking the ball short and not having enough explosives.”
Houston’s pass rush had its best performance in years, piling up six sacks after combining for nine in the first six games. It was the first time the Texans have had six or more sacks since Week 12 of the 2018 season.
Jonathan Greenard had 2 1/2 and Maliek Collins had two, giving Houston two players with two or more sacks in the same game for the first time since J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney did it on Sept. 30, 2018.
“Our guys got pressure up front,” Ryans said. “The front four, they were able to get pressure. Still, we’ve just got to be better all the way across the board."
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Houston’s offense needs to generate big plays and convert third-down attempts.
WR Noah Brown. After missing the first four games with a calf injury, Brown has been improving each week and had his best game of the season Sunday. He had three receptions for 57 yards, highlighted by a 31-yard catch in the third quarter.
CB Tavierre Thomas. He had multiple penalties at the end of the game as the Panthers attempted to kick the game-winning field goal. The first one came when he dashed into the backfield before the ball was snapped and ran into the holder after Eddy Pineiro kicked the ball through the uprights.
Thomas got penalties for unnecessary roughness and being offsides and Carolina moved 10 yards closer. Pineiro made the kick again, but it was called back after Thomas was offsides again. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for intentionally delaying the game and the Panthers moved 5 yards closer.
Pineiro then hit the chip shot for the win.
“We’re trying to make a stop there, makeable field goal,” Ryans said. “So, we’re trying to make a stop there, trying block the kick.”
Ryans said rookie C Jarrett Patterson will be “out for some time” after sustaining a lower leg injury Sunday.
9 — Houston had nine tackles for losses Sunday to tie for the third most in franchise history. It was the 10th time the Texans had nine or more tackles for losses.
The Texans are aiming for more consistency Sunday against Tampa Bay after losing two out of three games since beating Jacksonville and Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks.
“We play really good one week and then we play off the next,” Stroud said. “We can’t do that if we want to be consistent and want to be playoff contenders and win the division. We’ve got to come and bring it every week.”
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