Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michael Ainsworth/AP/Shutterstock (13661400f) Houston Texans wide receiver Chris Moore (15) is stopped short of the goal line by Dallas Cowboys defensive end Carlos Watkins (91) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas Texans Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 11 Dec 2022
JUST MISSED: Five observations from Houston Texans 27-23 loss to Dallas Cowboys
These were the five things that most stood out during the Texans 27-23 loss to the Cowboys in Dallas, a game Houston should have won.
If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks. SAYS WHO?: The Houston Texans successfully rotated Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel at quarterback situationally, and the result was the Texans’ best offensive showing of the season. They were consistent throughout the game, gaining steady yardage. They converted well on third down. They got the necessary yards to move the sticks. Mills was accurate and on time for the most part, and even put some zip on balls when needed. Mills’ decisions seemed sharper and faster than they were earlier in the season. Driskel proved to be a running threat that the Cowboys did not seem to be prepared for, and he is tough to take down. Both quarterbacks were effective in their play and effectively used by the coaching staff. Mills finished 16-of-21 for 175 yards and an interception on a desperation Hail Mary at the end of the game. Driskel was 4-of-6 for 38 yards and a touchdown. He also had seven carries for 36 yards.
Someone explain why Amari Rodgers has not been on the field sooner: Rodgers made several key plays in this game, including hauling in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel that gave Houston the lead late in the second quarter. Rodgers made plays in traffic, got yards after the catch, and looked the part of a legit wide receiver. His play was that of WR2 in this game, and his production was a positive surprise. With this kind of production, why has it taken so long for the Texans to get him on the field? He is clearly a superior player to Phillip Dorsett. Rodgers finished with four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Chris Moore can play, and deserves a more significant role: Once again, the Texans were without both Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins. Once again, Chris Moore showed his value, stepping up and playing the role of WR1 effectively. Moore hauled in a beautiful one-handed catch down the right sideline in the first half that Dallas challenged and lost. He made a great sliding catch on an underthrown ball by Mills for another first down. He even had a great special teams play where he ran down a bouncing punt to down it at the Dallas 1 with 8:01 remaining in the fourth quarter. Moore deserves a shot at a bigger role on this team, particularly at the expense of malcontent Brandin Cooks (should Cooks recover from his calf injury). Moore led all receivers with both 10 receptions and 124 yards.
Dallas’ offensive game plan was all wrong: The Cowboys have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL behind their two-headed monster of Zeke Elliott and Tony Pollard, yet they chose to throw the ball more than run it. When they ran, they had strong success, but they continued to throw more than run despite the Texans having far and away the worst run defense in the league. They could have bullied the Texans defense and chewed up clock, playing keep away from the Texans. Instead they threw the ball around, had several misfires, several drops, and a ball bounce off a receiver’s hands for an interception. Dak was less efficient that normal today, and Dallas never adjusted their plan. It never made sense not to exploit a massive advantage that Dallas had in this game, and it was a major theme of this game. Prescott’s late game pick would have doomed the Cowboys against any other team. Dallas threw the ball 39 times and Elliott/Pollard split only 25 carries. How different this game would have been if Dallas relied on the run game more. They would have likely won easily instead of sweating out a last minute comeback.
Texans coaching appeared to be on point today until late in the fourth: There were no egregious play calls that made you want to throw things at your television. No odd substitutions or players in situations that clearly were not their strengths. The offense effectively used both quarterbacks to their strengths and in the right situations. They had the right calls on defense and came up with a huge defensive stop at their own 1-yard line. Their pass coverage was much better. They did not have any issues with players lined up in the wrong places, which dogged them last week. In fact, Texans coaching seemed to make the right calls right up until under four minutes in the fourth quarter when, after an interception gave them first and goal at the Dallas 5-yard line, they twice ran Rex Burkhead between the tackles and failed on fourth and three instead of taking the short field goal to extend the lead to 26-20. This was the first time their decisions did not make sense, and they blew an easy opportunity for points to extend their lead late. This one failure in decision-making ultimately led to yet another loss. After not converting fourth and goal, Dallas went 98 yards for a touchdown. If Houston kicks the field goal, they have a six-point lead, and Dallas has no excitement. Even if Dallas scores a touchdown at that point, a field goal wins it. The Texans could have gotten to field goal range for Fairbairn, who made a pair of 50-yard kicks in this game. One poor decision on what should have been a gimme-drive stole victory from Houston.