Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI/Shutterstock (13661472a) Dallas Cowboys Tony Pollard gets tackeled by Houston Texans Jalen Pitre during their NFL game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, December 11, 2022. NFL Cowboys Texans, Arlington, Texas, United States – 11 Dec 2022
The biggest upset of the season was minutes away from happening in Dallas as the Cowboys escaped a devastating loss to the Texans 27-23. A last-minute drive by Dak Prescott and the Cowboys rescued the Dallas faithful from a night filled with heartbreak with a 98-yard game-winning drive in the final two minutes of the game.
This game looked to be a tale of two extremes. Dallas played one of its worst games of the season, and Houston played one of its best. The game totaled five turnovers between the two teams, with some of the most critical coming late in the game.
The Texans played multiple quarterbacks throughout the game. In passing situations, Houston tended to put Davis Mills out there. Late roster addition Jeff Driskel saw most of his action in running situations. This gave their offense a jolt as they played to both of their strengths. Mills finished the day 16-of-21 for 175 yards and an interception on the last play of the game. Driskel ended the afternoon 4-of-6 for 38 yards and a touchdown to go along with 36 yards rushing.
The Dallas pass rush was neutralized, as they did not put up a sack in the game. The ball got out quickly for Houston, and the offensive line played outstanding.
Dak Prescott had a tough day, especially in the first half. Prescott finished 24-of-39 for 284 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. This was Dak’s worst quarterback rating since Week 1 against Tampa Bay.
The Cowboys would start with the football and immediately etch a mark on the scoreboard. Dallas led a nine-play drive powered by the running game resulting in an 11-yard touchdown run from Tony Pollard, giving Dallas a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Dallas’ defense would hold strong on the Texans’ first possession; however, a muffed punt from KaVontae Turpin gave Houston the ball back at the Dallas 24-yard line. That mistake would allow the Texans to tie up the game on a 1-yard punch-in touchdown from Dameon Pierce. The game was tied 7-7 with about five and a half minutes left in the first.
The Texans would take the lead late in the first quarter on their next possession. After a 36-yard completion from Davis Mills to Chris Moore, where Dallas would challenge the catch and fail to overturn it, Ka’imi Fairbairn would drill a 43-yard field goal giving the Texans a 10-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
A big play on Dallas’ next drive would be the catalyst for its next score, giving them the lead back. On third-and-long, Dak Prescott would heave a deep shot down the field complete to Noah Brown for 51 yards setting Dallas up deep in Houston territory. The Cowboys would take a 14-10 lead on a 10-yard Tony Pollard touchdown reception early in the second quarter.
After some strong defense from both teams throughout the second quarter, Houston would retake the upper hand. Tremon Smith would intercept Dak Prescott giving Houston the ball back at the Dallas 32-yard line. From there, it would take the Texans just two plays to score their second touchdown of the afternoon as Amari Rodgers caught his first touchdown as a Texan. A 28-yard strike from Jeff Driskel to Rodgers would give the Texans a 17-14 lead with just over two minutes to play in the first half.
Dallas would tie the game on their next drive consisting of all passes. They would drive 60 yards down the field on 11 plays and settle for a 33-yard Brett Maher field goal to tie the game 17-17 with 44 seconds remaining in the half.
The Texans would use the final seconds of the half to tack on three more before the half closed. On six plays, Houston would drive 38 yards down the field to set up a 50-yard field goal giving them the lead 20-17 heading into halftime. The difference in the game to this point was takeaways as the Texans took two away from the Cowboys.
Houston would start with the ball in the second half and commit their first turnover of the day. A Dameon Pierce fumble would end up in the hands of Trevon Diggs, giving Dallas the ball back at the Texans’ 28-yard line.
Dallas would run the ball every play on their ensuing nine-play drive. However, the Texans would get a huge stop on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line allowing Houston’s mistake to go unanswered.
On the Texans’ next possession, they would drive from their own 2-yard line to the Dallas 35-yard line, eventually adding more to their lead. Houston would put up a 54-yard field goal after a 10-play drive giving them a 23-17 lead with three minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Cowboys would answer back on their next drive. They would lead a nine-play drive resulting in a 53-yard field goal cutting the deficit to 23-20 early in the fourth quarter. The Texans’ defense had outplayed their expectations to this point.
Houston decided to punt the ball away from the Dallas 40-yard line pinning the Cowboys back at their own 1-yard line. Dallas moved the ball to the 13-yard line until Dak fumbled and pushed them back 10 yards to the 3-yard line. On the very next play, Prescott was intercepted by Tremon Smith for the second time setting up Houston at the Cowboys 5-yard line.
After the huge dagger to the Cowboys, the Texans had a chance to put the game away with a touchdown. However, the Dallas defense came up big with a goal-line stand giving them the ball back against their own end zone with just over three minutes to play in the game.
The Cowboys’ next drive would prove their most crucial of the game. They would start an 11-play drive from their own 2-yard line and march 98 yards down the field to score a go-ahead touchdown to take the lead with under a minute to go in the game, 27-23. Ezekiel Elliott punched in a 2-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys in a great position to avoid the upset.
The Texans got the ball back with 41 seconds left on the clock and 75 yards to go. Down four, they needed a touchdown to win the game. A 35-yard strike from Davis Mills to Chris Moore would give Houston some life with the clock ticking below 20 seconds. However, on the final play, Mills chucked a 46-yard Hail Mary that was intercepted by Israel Mukuamu to end the game in favor of Dallas.
Dallas would avoid the massive upset at home, while the Texans walked away with some positive notes heading into next week.
The 10-3 Cowboys head back on the road next week as they are set to play the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
The 1-11-1 Texans return to NRG Stadium next week as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs.