Nick Chubb’s 59-yard run all but closed out the Cleveland Browns’ 10-7 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. His decision to step out of bounds at the 1-yard line, instead of running into the end zone for a touchdown that would’ve covered the point spread, was painful for the betting public.
Chubb took a pitch on a third-and-3 with 1:07 to play, juked a defender and cut up the left sideline and into the clear. The Browns, who were favored by 4.5, were clinging to a 3-point lead. The Texans had no timeouts, so Chubb said the plan was for him to pick up the first down then give himself up, allowing the Browns to run out the remaining seconds by kneeling.
At the Texans’ 1-yard line, with no defender close, Chubb took a sharp left turn and went out of bounds. The Browns kneeled down on the final two plays and sealed the victory for their sixth win of the season.
“I got a call from the coaches, from [quarterback] Baker [Mayfield] to not score, get a first down to end the game. So that’s what I did,” Chubb said after the game. “Luckily the run was a little longer because I didn’t think about it until the last 10 yards.”
The Browns were supported heavily by the betting public. The line opened at Cleveland -2.5, but was bet up to -3.5 by Friday and closed at -4.5 at most sportsbooks.
At William Hill sportsbooks around the nation, 89% of the money bet on the point spread was on Cleveland, according to data reported by the bookmaker an hour before kickoff.
Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook book director for BetMGM in Nevada, said the Texans covering the spread produced a mid-six-figure swing in favor of the house and a collective moan from the crowd of bettors at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
“We were yelling and then, unbelievable, he runs out of bounds,” Stoneback told ESPN on Sunday afternoon. “He was full speed, going down the sideline, and it was almost like an afterthought, ‘Oops, let me get out.’ That was our biggest game of the morning.”
DraftKings also reported taking significantly more money on the Browns than the Texans. The action on Cleveland resulted in what DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello characterized as a “pretty sizable” swing in favor of the house.
ESPN’s win probability metric showed Cleveland had a greater than 99.9% chance of winning whether Chubb scored to put the Browns up nine with an extra point pending or if he decided to step out of bounds and let Mayfield kneel to run off the final seconds.
Chubb acknowledged to reporters that it is difficult to give up scoring a touchdown.
“That’s the natural instinct to get in the end zone,” he said. “Something came into my head … just go out of bounds. I should’ve just took a knee or slid to keep the clock running, but it was a split decision.”
Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski said he wouldn’t have gotten mad at Chubb had he scored. But Stefanski said he gave Chubb the team’s code phrase — “no mas” — instructing him to go down after a first down and not score.