The Tennessee Titans accomplished a lot in the course of beating the Houston Texans in NFL Week 6. The Titans remained unbeaten, they confirmed that Romeo Crennel and “coach” belong together only when discussing air travel accommodations, and they reminded us how unfair the NFL overtime rule is.
Pin this mess on Houston Texans coach Romeo Crennel
The Houston Texans had to ditch Bill O’Brien after an 0-4 start to the NFL season, but that was primarily about his disastrous moves as general manager and deteriorating relationships. On the field on Sunday afternoons, O’Brien generally knew what he was doing.
Meanwhile, Romeo Crennel, coaching just his second game since 2012, could use a can of WD-40. A sticky valve apparently cut the flow of common sense somewhere between “the chart” and his mind. His decision to go for a 2-point conversion with 1:50 to play in the 42-36 loss to the Tennessee Titans was unforgivable.
To his credit, Crennel made a gutsy call by going for the touchdown on fourth down rather than settling for a field goal. Deshaun Watson made the gamble pay off with a 1-yard scoring pass to Brandin Cooks for a 36-29 lead. At that moment, Crennel should have pushed back from the table.
Instead, Crennel, who was 28-55 coaching the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, did the inexplicable. In choosing to go for the 2-point conversion that Crennel felt would clinch his second straight win as interim coach rather than kicking the extra point, he opened the door. Watson’s pass fell incomplete, then Ryan Tannehill marched Tennessee 76 yards in nine plays. Stephen Gostkowski kicked the extra point, and the Titans gave themselves a 50/50 chance in overtime (More about that momentarily.)
Crennel’s decision defied all logic. Kicking the extra point – never a sure thing but still less risky than going for two – would have given the Texans an eight-point lead. It would have put the onus on Tennessee to score twice – first a touchdown and then a 2-point conversion.
Not that either defense could stop much of anything, but it would have been one more obstacle for the Titans.
The NFL overtime rule was unfair to the Houston Texans
You didn’t need to be able to look inside Deshaun Watson’s visor to see his eyeballs do the around-the-world-360 when the Tennessee Titans won the coin toss before overtime. Technically speaking, the Titans’ subsequent winning drive took six plays and 3:30 of elapsed time, but the game was over as soon as the coin hit the turf.
The Titans and the Houston Texans combined for 931 yards and 72 points in regulation. They combined for four touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with the shortest scoring drive consuming 64 yards.
Conclusion: There was no freaking way that the team that won the coin flip wasn’t going to march the ball down the field for a walk-off touchdown. Ryan Tannehill did precisely that, driving Tennessee 77 yards to set up Derrick Henry’s 5-yard TD run off a direct snap. Game, set, and match.
Because it was a touchdown rather than a field goal, Watson and the Texans never saw the ball in overtime. On a day on which the offenses were scoring at will, it was grossly unfair to not give Houston a chance to match the Titans.
A slightly better overtime solution
An NFL game ends immediately if the opening possession results in a touchdown. Part of the NFL’s rationale is to keep overtime games from dragging on. We’d like to think that’s strictly out of safety concerns for fatigued players. Unfortunately, it probably has more to do with not wanting 1 o’clock games interfering with the TV window for 4:05 and 4:25 p.m. starts.
But with the NFL having become a points-happy league – look at all the scoring records set so far in 2020 – it’s too easy for the first team with the ball to score a touchdown, thereby ending the game.
The fair thing to do is to guarantee both teams a possession and add a clause: Upon scoring a TD on the opening possession of overtime, that team has to kick the extra point. If the opposing team counters with a touchdown of its own, then it has to attempt a 2-point conversion unless the first team missed the kick.
Either way, the game is almost certainly over without having to play to the end of the OT.