HOUSTON -- With 3 minutes, 45 seconds left in regulation and the Houston Texans leading by two points on Sunday, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas heard the third-down playcall from quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Just five days after he was traded to the Texans from the Denver Broncos -- Houston's opponent on Sunday in its 19-17 victory -- Thomas was still learning the Texans' playbook and trying to help his new team out on the fly. In his confusion, he committed a false start on third-and-5 at the Houston 40-yard line. The Texans couldn't convert on the next play and had to punt with more than three minutes left on the clock.
"There were a couple [plays] I was like, 'S---,'" Thomas said. "I knew it, but I still did the wrong thing because I didn't know for sure. About three or four I kind [of] jacked up, and they [were] critical, so it made it worse. It made it worse."
The Texans won because Broncos kicker Brandon McManus missed a 51-yard field goal attempt as time expired that would have given Denver the win and ended Houston's five-game win streak. After the miss, Thomas sprinted off the field in excitement -- and relief -- that his mistakes hadn't cost the Texans their sixth straight victory. The hardest part, Thomas said, was he knew there are other players on the Texans' roster who would have known the playcalls and been able to execute the routes he had messed up.
Watson said he had to help out Thomas with some of the directions and formations on different plays. The veteran receiver also relied on help from new teammate DeAndre Hopkins during the week and the game to make sure he was lined up in the right place. Coach Bill O'Brien wanted Thomas to stay in one spot for his first game with the Texans, so Hopkins had to move around on the field more than usual.
"[There are] different signals [for] some plays that, depending on what the playcall is, is opposite," Watson said. "He was hearing one thing and ended up doing the opposite. I had to make sure he was on the same page as me. He did a good job. Some things we are going to fix."
Thomas had three catches for 61 yards, all of which came in the first quarter. He had catches of 31 and 18 yards on the Texans' first drive of the game to get them into the red zone. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Thomas' 61 yards were his most in a single half this season.
When Thomas got to Houston on Wednesday after being traded to the Texans at the trade deadline, he had a slight advantage because he had spent time in former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels' offense in 2010. Both McDaniels and O'Brien are students of Bill Belichick and run similar offenses. Thomas said there was some carryover on some of the terminology and formations, which helped him pick up some of the offense quicker.
However, because Thomas had fewer than four days with the playbook before his Texans debut, O'Brien and wide receivers coach John Perry focused on teaching Thomas just the bare minimum so he could focus on his role for Sunday.
"You had to go right to the game plan [when Thomas got to Houston]," O'Brien said. "If you go ... 'Here's this playbook, this thick playbook,' that wouldn't be very good coaching, I don't think. So we had to teach him the game plan: 'Here's your role in the game plan, [and] here's who you're going to be within each personnel group.'"
Now with the bye week, O'Brien said, the Texans can go back to the basics with Thomas.
"Now we can kind of take a step back and really go back into what we call the basic information: teach him the formations, teach him the routes, the protections, how the protections fit with the routes that he's running and things like that and the technique of the route," O'Brien said. "He's a really good pro, as I said after the game yesterday, and he's going to do a great job of learning."
Houston has 14 days between games before the team travels to play the Washington Redskins in Week 11. Thomas said he plans to use his bye week wisely -- he went hunting for a place to live on Monday because he spent last week living out of the team hotel -- to make sure he is ready for that game.
And he plans to go on vacation for a few days. With his new playbook, of course.
"I'm going to get away from it, and I'm going to take my playbook with me so I can go fast [when I'm back]," Thomas said.