HOUSTON -- Houston Texans veteran defensive tackle Maliek Collins barreled into the New England Patriots’ backfield, charging hard after rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
Collins' helmet made some light contact with Jones’ chin, and that was enough to draw a costly unnecessary roughness penalty for roughing the passer that led to the Patriots’ game-winning field goal as the Texans collapsed in the second half as they squandered a lead to fall, 25-22, Sunday at NRG Stadium for their fourth consecutive defeat.
Instead of it being 4th-and-18 at the Patriots’ 29-yard line on Jones’ incomplete pass over the middle intended for N’Keal Harry, New England found new life and a crucial first down.
“Well, we can't have that,” Texans coach David Culley said. “And I think it was one of those things where it was one of those penalties that it could have went where we didn't make the call. But he ended up making the call.”
Collins’ penalty, one of the Texans’ eight penalties for 70 yards, led up to Nick Folk’s game-deciding 21-yard field goal as the Patriots scored the final 16 points of the game.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Texans safety Justin Reid said. “Maliek has made so many plays for us, just being the aggressive guy that he is. It’s just unfortunate that that play happened, but those plays do happen sometimes. Those are the things that we’ve got to work on and clean up just being able to close out the fourth quarter. But he’s a smart guy and he’s going to get it right. He took responsibility for it, and looking forward, I know he’s going to make the right decisions going forward.
“There’s no finger pointing. We’re all grown men here. We know what happened in the game. He knows what happened with the penalty. It’s just playing football. He’s going to make 10 plays before he makes a flag like that. It’s just what happened on this one series, but we’re going to have to clean it up.”
Texans defensive end Jon Greenard questioned the legitimacy of the penalty.
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“I personally don’t think it was, but, at the end of the day, it’s not my decision,” Greenard said. “We just got to play cleaner ball. Maliek played hard and that’s one of the things that comes with it. It sucks, but at the end of the day we just gotta keep going.”
The Texans considered allowing the Patriots to score, but went back and forth and it left them with little time to try to answer Folk’s field goal.
The Patriots reached the Texans’ 6-yard line with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson reached the Texans’ 2-yard line. He scored a touchdown on the ensuing play, but the Patriots were flagged for an illegal shift.
Instead of declining the penalty, allowing the touchdown and getting the football back with 1:52 remaining, Culley accepted the penalty.
“We did think about that,” Culley said of whether he contemplated declining the penalty. “There was a possibility we were going to end up letting him score.”
“We had some communication, considered letting them score on purpose,” Reid said. “It makes sense. At least give our offense an opportunity to go out on the field and tie the game up and send it into overtime. When it came time for the snap, the message was we’re just going to play the style of defense to stop them from scoring, and try to make a play on the ball instead, trying to rip it out some way or another. They ended up, credit to them, closing the game out and getting a field goal.”
Now, the Texans are 1-4 heading into next Sunday’s road game against the Indianapolis Colts.
“This one hurt a lot,” Reid said. “We had control of the game, and we let it slip through our fingertips.”