Texans coach David Culley inspired a ton of second-guessing when he inexplicably opted to punt instead of accepting a penalty Sunday and being given another third down opportunity against the Cleveland Browns' defense.
When Browns defensive end Takarrist McKinley jumped offsides during quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s 13-yard completion to wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the first half, the Texans had a 4th-and-2 situation and sent punter Cameron Johnston go into the game. However, the penalty, if it had been accepted would have set up a 3rd-and-10 situation.
Declining the penalty didn’t wind up impacting the game significantly as the Texans’ 31-21 loss was primarily due to the Browns’ running game taking over and Taylor’s game-ending hamstring strain that could sideline him for roughly a month. After the punt, safety Justin Reid intercepted Baker Mayfield and set up a Texans touchdown and a 14-7 halftime lead.
Given a chance to do it again, Culley indicated Monday that he would have handled the situation entirely differently. And Culley explained that left offensive guard Tytus Howard’s false start was a contributing factor in his choice not to take the penalty
Few NFL coaches are as honest and forthcoming as Culley, and provide this kind of detailed explanation on a decisions that backfired.
“If I had to do it over again, I would have taken the penalty,” Culley said. “ I’ll tell you as I thought about it, it was more out of frustration than anything. We were second and 7. We get a false start, I think it was Tytus had a false start. Then we go to second and 12 then very next play we lose three yards on it. So, now we are second and 15. And then we got the penalty, the first thing that went through my mind and I was a little frustrated at the time because I was thinking field position. I did not want to do anything to hurt us.
“Because Cam as a punter, we had the ball right there at about the 49-yard line. I figured that he has been very, very good at being able to pin them back, and I was thinking that. But again, that was just out of frustration on my part because of the series that we were having at that time. But, no, if I had to do that again I would take the penalty. And give our offense a chance to get the first down, which I should have done.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.