HOUSTON -- Davis Mills committed exactly the type of mistake Sunday that he has repeatedly discussed avoiding.
The Houston Texans' second-year quarterback stared down his primary read, not looking off the Washington Commanders' defense in the first quarter. Mills was intercepted by Commanders' cornerback Kendall Fuller, who undercut the throw intended for Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
The pick-six was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Fuller to stake the Commanders to a 7-0 lead at NRG Stadium.
This is the 10th interception Mills has thrown this season.
Mills previously discussed the fine line between risk versus reward.
Proof of that came in a reminder when Mills was intercepted in the red zone during the fourth quarter of a loss last week to the New York Giants. The former Stanford quarterback was picked off by defensive back Dane Belton one play after a touchdown pass from Mills to Cooks was nullified by a holding penalty on rookie guard Kenyon Green.
Then, Mills forced the football into traffic on a throw intended for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. That turnover contributed to the 1-7-1 Texans' 24-16 defeat at MetLife Stadium.
Despite the costly miscue and other similar performances from Mills in going 1 for 6 in the red zone, the Texans are sticking with the former third-round draft pick.
Texans coach Lovie Smith explained the reasoning, including Mills and the offense playing markedly better in the second half after an ugly first half.
“Because he gives us our best chance to win," Smith said. "The confidence comes in that. Since he’s our starting quarterback, we’re going to have to be able to do that. We completed some balls. We didn’t punt the ball the second half. There are some good things we we’re able to do to."
Mills' regression from his rookie year, completing 62.4 percent of his throws heading into Sunday's game, down from 66.8 percent accuracy as a rookie, passing for 1,975 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions for an 81.7 passer rating after an 88.8 rating last year with 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, raises big-picture questions that impact the entire franchise.
Should the Texans stay with Mills for the remainder of the season, that doesn't decrease the likelihood that they draft a potential franchise quarterback such as Ohio State's C.J. Stroud or Alabama's Bryce Young.
Against an aggressive Giants defense quarterbacked by unpredictable defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, Mills passed for a season-high 319 yards, but had just 35 yards at halftime and looked hesitant on his throws during an underwhelming half.
For Mills, it's about figuring out when to take a calculated risk and when to live to fight another day with an emphasis on ball security.
Because the Texans are a run-first offense with a small margin for error, as Mills and other key figures with the offense have pointed out, any turnovers, like Mills' interception and star rookie running back Dameon Pierce's lost fumble, are extremely pivotal.
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