The Houston Texans are a desperate team, as anyone starting Davis Mills at quarterback is wont to be. They’re going for it on fourth down regularly these days, which certainly seemed necessary when they lost 40-0 to the Buffalo Bills. Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots saw more trickery and desperation, but to much better results. That is, until it all went disastrously wrong on a play where, somehow, the Texans blocked their own punt.
After a Mills flea flicker touchdown put the Texans up 22-9 in the third quarter, Houston was forced into punt formation for the first time all game on the next possession. This is a special teams unit that had already missed two extra points and had a kickoff go out of bounds, and they somehow decided that punter Cameron Johnston should get involved in the chicanery.
Johnston was in punt formation when things got wonky before the snap. He ran up to the line of scrimmage, apparently to run something other than a punt, but then aborted the fake punt and backpedaled a bit. But he didn’t go back to his original punting position 15 yards deep in the backfield, which is why his punt attempt doinked right off a blocking teammate’s helmet.
There are a lot of unanswered questions here, and my fear is that those involved will take these horrible secrets to the grave rather than admit what the hell actually happened here. Why did Johnson try to punt it from three yards behind his own lineman? Why did they not just call a timeout and admit whatever was going on here did not go according to plan? Why did he kick what clearly was not going to clear the line of his own teammates, let alone a Patriots special teams unit clearly gunning for the punter in a weird position?
The play set the Patriots up in Texans territory, but they only managed a field goal out of what was a horrible miscue. Later in the game, Johnston managed to get off a punt from normal depth that wasn’t a complete disaster. So maybe don’t expect to see Houston attempt something like that again anytime soon. If only for the concussion risk to their own lineman.