The Denver Broncos lost a tough one to the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon, and the game has left a bitter taste in everyone's mouths for a variety of reasons. Not only did the Broncos lose a close game, but they lost a close game that they probably should have found a way to win. Unfortunately, too many mistakes and inconsistencies throughout the course of the game added up, but there was one particular turning point early in the matchup that contributed a little more heavily to Denver's ultimate demise.
On a 4th-and-2, the Houston Texans were going for it inside the red zone and the play was blown dead due to a Houston false start. The Broncos were sending Alex Singleton on a blitz for the play, so Singleton's momentum took him through the line of scrimmage after the snap simultaneously with the play being blown dead. He put his hands on Texans QB CJ Stroud, who took issue with it, and after Stroud head-butted Singleton, Singleton reacted and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
It's always the guy who swings second, isn't it?
Singleton let Stroud get under his skin in the moment, and instead of the Texans moving back five yards and kicking a field goal, they ended up punching it in for six with Dameon Pierce a couple of plays later. Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton wasn't impressed in his Monday media availability.
"Defensively, we’re off the field, and in a red-zone situation, we let a rookie bait us into a personal foul. That’s four points. Instead of finishing that game needing a touchdown, we’re kicking a field goal to win."- Sean Payton (via Broncos PR)
Obviously, Payton isn't pinning the entire loss on the Alex Singleton gaffe, but he's also not shying away from saying that without the penalty, they could have won the game. Which I think is fair. Singleton played an overall great game defensively and had some huge plays especially in the second half, but this bone-headed mistake cost your team four points in a five-point loss.
The complexion of the game is a lot different if it's 18-17 late in the 4th, or even 19-17 if the Texans don't go for two when they did.
It's pretty annoying that the officials in this game decided not to call Stroud for his head-butt, or any of the Texans players that came after Singleton as well. It's also unfortunate that the penalties on this play didn't cancel each other out. Because Singleton's foul was of the personal foul variety, it superseded the Houston penalty and basically wiped it off the board completely.
There were a number of controversial officiating issues in that game against Houston, notably calls against the Denver Broncos or non-calls that impacted the Broncos negatively.
At the end of the day, the Broncos played almost a perfect game in the penalty department, but this one from Singleton was a back-breaker.