Nick Chubb's 59-yard run nearly ended the Cleveland Browns' 10-7 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. His decision to step out of line at the 1-yard line instead of running into the end zone for a touchdown that would have covered the point distribution was painful for the betting crowd.
Chubb took a pitch on a third-and-3 1:07 to play, threw a defender, and cut the left sideline and out into the open. The Browns, who were favored with 4.5, held on to a 3-point lead. The Texans had no time outs so Chubb said he should pick up the first descent and then give himself up so the Browns could lose the remaining seconds by kneeling.
At the Texans 1-yard line, Chubb made a sharp left and went out of bounds. The Browns knelt down in the last two games and sealed a 3-point win for their sixth win of the season.
"I got a call from the coaches, from [quarterback] Baker [Mayfield], not to score, to finish the game. So I did that," said Chubb after the game. "Fortunately the run was a little longer because I only thought about it in the last 10 meters."
The Browns were heavily supported by the betting crowd. The line opened at -2.5 in Cleveland but was set at -3.5 by Friday and closed at -4.5 on most sports bets.
In William Hill sports betting across the country, 89% of the money staked on the point spread on Cleveland, the bookmaker announced an hour before kick-off.
Jeff Stoneback, sports betting book director at BetMGM in Nevada, said the Texans reporting the spread produced a mid six-digit swing in favor of the house and a collective moan from the crowd at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
"We screamed and then, unbelievably, he has no limits," Stoneback told ESPN on Sunday afternoon. "He was in full swing going down the sideline and it was almost like an afterthought: 'Oops, let me out.' That was our biggest game of the morning."
DraftKings also reported that they stole significantly more money from the Browns than from the Texans. The Cleveland move led DraftKings Sports Betting Director Johnny Avello to characterize a "pretty big" swing in favor of the house.
ESPN's probability of winning metric showed that Cleveland had a greater than 99.9% chance of winning regardless of whether Chubb scored a goal to get the Browns to nine with an extra point pending, or chose to push the limits and Mayfield Kneeling down to lose the last few seconds.
Chubb admitted to reporters that being without a touchdown is difficult.
"That's the natural instinct to get into the end zone," he said. "Something has gotten into my head … just push the envelope. I should have just taken a knee or slipped to keep the clock going, but it was a split decision."
Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski said he wouldn't have been mad at Chubb if he had scored. But Stefanski said he gave Chubb the team's code phrase – "no mas" – and instructed him to fall after an initial relegation and not score.