Nick Chubb was on his way to a 60-yard touchdown run that would’ve added a touchdown to his fantasy football stat line and covered the spread for anyone who bet Browns -3.5 (or -4.0 or -4.5, for that matter) against the Texans on Sunday.
Instead, Chubb stepped out of bounds after running 59 yards. It was the classic case of a player making a smart football play that frustrated those invested in the outcome across the country. Cleveland (6-3) beat the Texans (2-7), 10-7, after two ensuing kneeldowns by Baker Mayfield to pull out a low-scoring win and maintain pace in the AFC North.
Why did Chubb step out of bounds? There was less than a minute remaining, and the Texans were out of timeouts. He’d long since achieved the third-and-3 first down distance that would be the final nail in the Houston coffin. Scoring would give the Texans the football back, still needing a miracle to win but a chance nonetheless. Instead, Chubb’s decision to step out of bounds meant Mayfield could kneel twice and end the game.
After the game, Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski clarified that Chubb was running the Browns’ “no mas” play, which means to go down after getting the first down. Chubb just lamented that he hadn’t slid down in-bounds instead of running out of bounds.
If the game’s spread had been different, or if it had been a player less started in fantasy football than Chubb, the maneuver may have flown under the radar. But Chubb was a top-20 pick in fantasy leagues, and the Browns were favored by anywhere between 3.5 and 4.5 points. A Chubb touchdown would’ve been worth an additional six fantasy points in most formats, while also making those who bet on Cleveland into winners. Instead, Texans gamblers likely wanted to give Chubb a hug.
Chubb’s run joined Kareem Hunt in the 100-yard club for Cleveland. Chubb finished with 19 rushes for 126 yards and a score, while Hunt also rushed 19 times (for 104 yards). The game was initially delayed by hail storms, but blue skies followed soon after on a day that remained windy in Ohio.
The move to turn down a touchdown on a late run was reminiscent of a famous Brian Westbrook run in 2007. The Eagles were leading the Cowboys 10-6 when Westbrook broke through, but he stopped before the end zone and took a knee. Philadelphia went on to run out the clock against Dallas, just as Cleveland did against Houston on Sunday.
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