CHICAGO – A golden chance for the Houston Texans to capture their first win rested on the shoulders of the offense.
The Texans lined up with 1:14 remaining in the fourth quarter from the Texans' 26. The stakes were high with the score knotted at 20-20 on third-and-1.
The interception capped another frustrating game for the Texans (0-2-1). Against the Bears (2-1), Mills threw for season highs in yards (245), completion percentage (62.5) and interceptions (2). He also added a touchdown pass in the 23-20 loss.
A few plays after the second interception, Bears kicker Cairo Santos nailed the game-winning kick as time expired.
Through three games, Mills, the third-round pick out of Stanford, hasn’t built on the momentum he created from his past nine starts of his rookie year when he threw for 2,307 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions with a passer rating of 96.
Mills is completing 57.9% of his passes, third-worst in the NFL among starting quarterbacks. Last year he completed 66% with a passer rating of 88. He currently has a passer rating of 77.7, which is tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mitch Trubisky for the fifth worst in the NFL.
And this years’ production has come with good protection around Mills. He has been pressured on only 18.4% of his dropbacks, third fewest among starting QBs, according to Next Gen Stats.
Mills’ biggest issues have been third downs and production in the fourth quarter.
On third downs, Mills is completing 47% of his passes, fourth worst in the NFL, compared to last season when he completed 63% (12th).
And the fourth-quarter troubles from Mills might be the most concerning. He’s completing 48% of his passes for 124 yards with an interception for a passer rating of 46. And according to Next Gen Stats, the expected completion percentage is 69. Last year he produced a passer rating of 88 and completed 64% of his throws with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
Mills isn't the only one struggling, as the defense has given up a league-high 607 rushing yards -- including 281 against the Bears. Ironically, the Bears (who gave up 92 rushing yards to the Texans) is tied for the second worst at 471.
Sunday marked the third straight game where the Texans had an opportunity to win, but the offense, led by Mills, has failed to score a point in the fourth quarter all season.
Mills feels the unit is “close,” and it just comes down to the small details.
“I thought today we were moving the ball well," Mills said. "Had a tough situation, got called for a penalty, backed us up a little bit and kind of killed the drive. So I guess shooting ourselves in the foot. Really that last drive, I thought we were all confident that we were going to move the ball down the field and go down and either kick a field goal to win it or score a touchdown. That defender made a good play at the line of scrimmage to tip it, and they got the turnover. Tough one today.”
The fourth-quarter struggles from Mills don’t fall solely at his feet, but coach Lovie Smith isn’t sure what the fix is.
“It's like everybody else, we're just not quite there yet,” Smith said. “ I wish I could tell you exactly -- if I could tell you exactly why, I would tell you. ... Got to make better decisions. Got to protect the ball.”