5. Sean Payton, head coach
A good leader is always going to fall on the sword, right? The Denver Broncos' head coach has been fantastic this year, and I think the fan base is realizing just how much of a difference he makes, but I also think he deserves some blame for this loss, and plenty of it.
Let's first discuss the fact that the Broncos were 0-for-11 on third downs in this one. That doesn't all reflect on the head coach, of course, and Payton had even designed some really good plays on third down for the Broncos that just weren't properly executed. Unfortunately, when you are that bad on third down, your play caller has to come under fire. Payton needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out where the team has been going wrong on third down, why they're not executing, and figure out what's going to work.
Beyond third down, let's talk about the way the situation at the end of the game was handled. The Denver Broncos came out of the two-minute warning and took a timeout immediately. Given the situation, burning a timeout there was super odd. Then, the Broncos ran a couple of plays and let time just bleed off the clock as though it wasn't valuable.
I get what they were trying to do by not giving the Texans time to come back. But the Broncos had three timeouts coming out of the two-minute warning, and even though it was 4th-and-1, taking a timeout there eliminated the possibility that you might fail on the 4th down play and be able to get the ball back by using your timeouts if need be. It was just an odd move.
And then after the 4th-and-1 conversion, the Broncos took 1:21 off the clock on two plays that gained eight yards.
Then when the Broncos got down inside the 10, it didn't feel like the players had a good grasp on the plays that were being called. The Broncos didn't have their best 11 out there with Lucas Krull getting some snaps (including the final target). It looked like Adam Trautman and another receiver were in the same vicinity.
The communication and execution just didn't seem on point offensively, whether we're talking late in the game or for the first three quarters, and the inability to move the ball is going to have to change if the Broncos are going to win some games down the stretch.