The Dallas Cowboys nearly suffered the biggest upset of the NFL season, but a game-winning drive by Dak Prescott lifted Big D over the Houston Texans 27-23.
The Cowboys were 17-point favorites coming into the game, which is the largest point spread in the league this year. The Texans were 1-10-1 coming in, so it seemed easy to predict a blowout victory by the Cowboys.
But Dallas made some critical mistakes that gave Houston a chance to steal the win. In the end, it took clutch performances from the offense and defense to come out victorious, and they got it done.
Here’s how what was expected to be an easy win turned into a nail-biter:
Cowboys made costly mistakes
The Cowboys made a handful of bad plays that kept the Texans alive in the game.
The first came after Houston went three and out on its opening drive. KaVontae Turpin muffed the punt and the Texans recovered on the Cowboys 24 yard line. Houston turned the excellent field position into a touchdown.
Prescott, who’s now thrown an interception in three consecutive games, had two more picks on Sunday. The first came when QB1 tried squeezing the ball in a tight window to Noah Brown, but the ball deflected off Brown’s hands and landed in the lap of a Texans defender. Houston turned the ensuing drive into a touchdown.
The second interception came with two minutes left in the game and Dallas down by three points. Dak was rushed on the play and his arm was hit by a Texan as he passed, and it made for an easy pop-fly pick for Houston.
Despite starting the next drive on Dallas’ four-yard line, the defense kept Houston off the scoreboard and gave the offense one more shot to win the game, and they got it done.
The personnel change that saved the day
Cowboys RT Terence Steele has played well this year, but left a knee injury that is feared to be serious, per NFL Network.
Josh Ball came in for Steele and struggled mightily. On Prescott’s second interception, it was Ball’s man that applied pressure to Dak, hitting his arm and forcing the turnover:
After that, the Cowboys had seen enough and put Jason Peters at RT, despite the 40-year-old having last played the position in 2006.
But Peters stepped up and provided much better protection for Dak. It helped the offense go 98 yards in the two-minute drill to get the game-winning touchdown. Prescott struggled in the game, but was 6/7 passing for 79 yards on the final drive.
The defense had to persevere
The offense and special teams put Dallas’ defense in a lot of tough spots. The turnovers by Prescott and Turpin gave Houston favorable field position.
The Texans are only averaging 16 points per game, but scored 20 points by halftime.
In the second half, the Cowboys allowed just three points. Here’s how Houston’s drives went in the third and fourth quarter:
- Lost fumble
- Field goal
- Turnover on downs
One thing the defense struggled with is rushing the passer. The Texans rushed the ball 37 times and ran 27 pass plays, so when Davis Mills or Jeff Driskel did drop back (the Texans rotated both QBs in through the game), the defense was seemingly caught off guard.
For the first time this season, the Cowboys failed to record a sack. But they did force two turnovers: one was a fumble caused by Donovan Wilson and the other was a win-clinching pick by Israel Mukuamu.
But Trevon Diggs isn’t so sure that Mukuamu is the one who came down with the interception on the hail mary toss by Mills: