An odd thing happened when Miami was leading 21-20 with about 10:15 left to go in the game. And it was followed by a series of unusual events that I wanted to recount for y'all.
Miami faces 3rd and 2 from their own 43. Pennington passes to the fullback who struggles forward for 1 yard. It was clear to me at the time that Cramer did not cross the marker, and the spot was correct. But Sparano was right there and was sure that he *did* cross the first down line. Let me first say that challenging the spot rarely works. I can't find the stat, but I'd estimate that it is overturned <10% of the time. So, it seemed an unlikely outcome.
Miami loses the challenge, and are charged a timeout. Its 4th and 1 at their own 44, you have the lead, and the momentum. So, naturally, Sparano decides to punt.
It takes the Texans 4 plays to reach the spot from which Miami punted, and 6 plays to reach Miami's 24. The drive bogs down, and they settle for a field goal to make it 23-21 Houston.
There are 6 minutes left. Miami runs 5 plays, and faces a 3rd and 5 from their own 36. Pennington throws a pass to Fasano, but it gets picked by Eugene Wilson. He decides to be the hero and rather than just falling on the ball or running out of bounds, he tries to gain big yardage. And naturally, the ball is stripped out, and recovered by Miami.
Miami takes over from their own 27. Williams runs for 10, Fasano catches a pass for 12, and then Brown catches one and rumbles 39 yards to setup a first and 10 from the 12 at the two minute warning. On first down he runs for 6, and Houston calls timeout, leaving 1:57 showing on the clock. Brown again gets the call, and sess daylight, so he runs into the endzone.
But the smart money is on him kneeling at the 1.
And here's what I'm thinking - I know its the "heat of battle" and that's a tough thing to do. But HE'S A PROFESSIONAL! And you're in it to win it. A kneel down would give Miami the ball at the 1, first and goal, with about 1:40 left. Houston would have to use timeout #2. You run on first down to drive the line, but don't score on that play, either, and force Houston to take timeout #3. At this point, there would be about 1:30 left on the clock, at worst.
And now its second down, and you take a knee. Popular? No. Winning strategy? Yes. That would run 40 or so seconds off the clock. Then, on 3rd, you do it again. And you use *your* last timeout as the time winds down to about 10 seconds or so. And you kick the field goal for the lead. Houston is now in a spot where they have <10 seconds left (and if you managed it right, much less) , and no timeouts and need a field goal to win it.
As it is, Miami scores to take a 28-23 lead with 1:45 left. An eternity the way this team has been playing. Plus, they have 2 timeouts.
Houston starts at their own 24 with 1:40 left after the kickoff. Schaub gets sacked, then throws for 20 yards and a first down out to the 36. Now comes the next oddity; there's a fumble forced by Joey Porter that....wasn't. More on that in another post.
Second down is incomplete. 3rd down is a pass to Johnson that is intercepted by Goodman. Only, on review, its ruled incomplete. The announcers made a big deal about it "clearly" being incomplete. I was having a hard time with this one, and well, I'll post more about it later, too.
52 seconds left. 4th down. Schaub again goes to Johnson. Yeremiah Bell is in coverage, has position and is going for the pick. D'oh! The chant is "Its 4th down, knock it down!" Had Bell simply knocked the ball down - swat it, hit it, whatever - the game would have ended. Just don't give the receiver any chance to catch it. He goes for the pick, and Johnson reaches in and wrestles it away.
29 seconds left. After the spike, its second down Miami's 41. Coverage breaks down, and he finds the other receiver with a pass to the 11.
23 seconds. 1st and 10 at the 11. Schaub hits Johnson for 8, but he doesn't get in. A timeout is called.
16 seconds left. 2nd and 2 at the 3. Incomplete pass in the middle.
12 seconds left. 3rd and 2 at the 3. Another incompletion across the middle.
7 seconds left. This play is for the game. Miami still holds a timeout but, oddly doesn't use it. Maybe Sparano had a Cameron moment, and thought he could take it into next week? Houston lines up, and its clear there is a wide open middle of the field, and again no timeout...ummm...Schaub calls a draw and walks into the endzone for the easy score.
Houston lines up to go for 2, and NOW Miami uses its last timeout.
The play after the kickoff was just silly, and didn't really matter...
How many chances did Miami have to take control? A half dozen? And yet they manage to pull defeat from the jaws of victory...