By Terrance Turner
Dec. 11, 2022
The Houston Texans visited Arlington today to take on the Dallas Cowboys. And Houston had its hands full today with Dallas. Since Dak Prescott’s return from injury, the Cowboys offense ranks number one in points per game. And its defense is also top-rated. Despite two turnovers and some ugly mistakes, the Cowboys held on to prevail.
The Cowboys opened the game with a strong running drive. Ezekiel Elliott took Texans defenders for a ride, rushing 25 yards towards first and goal. Then Tony Pollard went in for the touchdown
The Texans went three-and-out, then punted. But Cowboys returner Kavontae Turpin dropped the ball and failed to recover it.
The Texans recovered the ball at the 24 yard line. Jeff Driskel took the reins at quarterback. Running back Dameon Pierce powered the Texans to first and goal. They were helped along by an offsides penalty on Dallas, which moved them to just outside the endzone. On 3rd and goal, Pierce pushed his way in for the touchdown tying the game.
After a three-and-out by Dallas, Houston took over. Davis Mills came in at quarterback. He got the offense going when Chris Moore made a spectacular one-handed catch. But Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy threw the challenge flag. Replay revealed that the ball shifted as Moore fell to the ground. But after review, the refs upheld the catch. McCarthy lost the challenge. Luckily for him the Dallas defense stepped up.
Dallas defender Osa Odighizuwa stopped Dare Ogbunwale on 3rd down. The Texans did attempt to field goal though. Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked a 43-yard field goal to give Houston a 10-7 lead. Dallas took possession to end the first quarter. And the second quarter started with a bang.
On 3rd and 13, Dak Prescott escaped the pocket and put his entire body into a far-flung throw. Wide receiver Noah Brown made the catch for a 51-yard gain.
The Texans defense got flagged for holding, but the catch stood. Then wide receiver CeeDee Lamb made further downfield for first and goal. Prescott then threw to running back Tony Pollard, who deftly escaped a tackle and side-stepped into the end zone for the touchdown.
Dallas regained the lead, 14-10. The Texans struggled on its ensuing drive. The Dallas defense proved a little too stout for their offense. Texans went for it on 4th down, but Dameon Pierce landed just short. Cornerback Trevon Diggs was injured on the drive. Commentators noted that he had suffered what seemed to be a painful hand injury. Minutes later, cameras caught him leaving the field for the locker room. (He came back later.)
The Cowboys went three and out. So did the Texans. But they got the ball right back. Prescott’s pass intended for Brown was deflected and then intercepted. The Texans cashed in. Unbelievably, Driskell took off running and hit Amari Rodgers for a touchdown. Texans went up 17-14.
Texans cornerback Jalen Pitre wreaked havoc on the Cowboys’ drive. He smacked wide receiver James Washington on the first-down play and later broke up a pass on 3rd down. Dallas had to settle for a field goal. Brett Maher kicked it through to tie the game.
But the Texans got into field goal range once they got the ball back, helped along by two simultaneous penalties on Dallas: one for offsides, another for pass interference. After a lengthy discussion the Texans accepted the offsides penalty, which put them at first and 5. Subsequently, another completion set them within range to take the lead. Fairbairn drilled a 50-yard field goal to give the Texans a 20-17 lead at the half.
The Texans got the ball to start the second half. But they didn’t hold on to it for long. As Pierce was running Wilson, grabbed him by the arm, and the ball popped out. It went flying into the air and Diggs came up with it. He took off running – running back and forth, forward and backwards, changing direction, and then sprinting near the 30-yard line.
A couple plays later, Elliott got stopped on a rush. But offensive guard Connor McGovern join other Cowboys to push Elliott over the line of gain for the first down. He picked up another couple yards before the Cowboys brought in Pollard. He launched forward for a first down of his own. Texans’ Taylor Stallworth was injured on the play.
Dallas got all the way to first and goal inside the five. But the Houston defense stopped Elliott on rush after rush. Instead of kicking a field goal, the Cowboys went for it on 4th and goal. However, Elliott was stuffed before reaching the end zone. The Texans turned the Cowboys away. And after starting from their own two-yard line, they advanced to midfield. Fairbairn sent a 54 yard field goal through to extend the Texans lead.
Down 23-17, the Cowboys began another drive that took them to the end of the third quarter. They did well enough to get within field goal range. Maher completed a 53-yard attempt to make it 23-20.
The Texans’ next effort started promisingly enough: Davis Mills, back in at quarterback, managed to skate by Cowboys defender Demarcus Lawrence. But on the very next play, Pierce got stopped by a defense that included Lawrence and Pierce was hurt on the play. (He later went to the sideline and had staff tape up his ankle.) But the drive ended without any points.
Dallas came up empty, too, on its drive, hampered by a holding penalty on third down. Houston also got flagged for holding on the punt return.
Disaster struck for the Cowboys as the clock ticked under 6 minutes. The defense forced a fumble as Prescott’s arm was hit during a throw. Then he got picked off by Trevon Smith, who caught the ball for 1st and goal. Moore dashed his way inside the one. But Rex Burkhead was stopped immediately on 3rd and goal by Lawrence. The Texans decided to go for it on 4th and goal. But Dallas’s defense stopped Driskel before he could score.
Could the Cowboys convert? Prescott started in the end zone completing two first down passes to tight end Dalton Schultz and running for a first down in the interim.
Two minutes left. Prescott threw to Schultz again, this time for first and goal. He completed a pass to Gallup in the end zone, but Jonathan Owens blasted Gallup, knocking him to the ground and the ball came loose upon impact. Referees ruled it an incomplete pass.
On 3rd and goal, Prescott passed the ball to Elliott who drove inside for the touchdown. Maher’s extra-point kick made it 27-23 with 41 seconds left. Elliott’s TD capped an 11-play, 98-yard drive.
It was desperation time for the Texans. A field goal wouldn’t help. They needed a touchdown. Davis Mills led the offense to midfield. But then, everything fell apart. Alan hurled the ball towards the end zone where it was caught by a Cowboys defender. Game over.
Diggs apparently fought Makuramu for control of the ball:
After the game, Diggs asked for half credit:
It wasn’t pretty, but the Cowboys won a thriller against the Texans. That last possession (And touchdown by Elliott) sealed the game.
“We just needed the ball one more time,” Dak Prescott said: “We just stayed focused. Took it one play at a time. Great way to finish this off.”
Prescott paid respect to the Texans. “That team’s got 1 win. But they played their ass off today and they played hard. “