The Houston Texans, heavy underdogs against their in-state rival, fell 27-23 to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The Texans nearly pulled off a big upset after scoring 14 points off three turnovers and putting up 327 net yards (213 passing, 114 rushing) of offense using two quarterbacks. Despite trailing most of the game, the Cowboys wrapped up a victory after scoring the go-ahead touchdown by Ezekiel Elliott with less than one minute remaining.
"The effort today, I thought the guys just play hard from start to finish," Head Coach Lovie Smith said. "You know, offensively we hadn't been able to do an awful lot lately, but I thought first, the offensive line did a good job. That defense we played, I think, leading the league in sacks and I think we gave up one. Damon Pierce ran hard and our receivers, we were down our top two receivers today."
After being benched for two games, Davis Mills returned as the Texans starting quarterback. Mills completed 16-of-21 passes for 175 yards and one interception on a Hail Mary pass late in the game. Jeff Driskel, called up from the practice squad was 4-of-6 for 38 yards and one touchdown.
"Defense gave it to us a few times, got a big goal-line stand, and we were able to get points out of it," Driskel said. "You know, props to Davis for being able to play in a game like that. That's not easy to come in on third down a lot of times and you know drop back passing but I thought he handled it well. I thought the game was called in a way that both of us were able to to help us. And like I said, we came up short and got to be able to execute a few more times."
With top receivers Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins out with injuries, WR Chris Moore led the team with 10 catches for 124 yards.
"It hurts," Moore said. "When you're in close games like that, you want to finish it, especially the way our season is going. We wanted to finish it with a [win]. It just hurts not to finish the game like that."
Dameon Pierce rushed for 78 yards on 22 carries (3.5 average) and scored one touchdown before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter.
Tremon Smith finished with two interceptions on defense. Rookie Jalen Pitre led the team with 12 tackles (nine solo) and two passes defensed.
"Defensively whenever you can take the ball away, it's a big thing," Lovie Smith said. "Also down a couple you know when Steve Nelson went down a couple of our starting cornerbacks but Tremon Smith outstanding job. Des King has done an outstanding job. Those guys just keep next man up mentality and they played well, Maliek Collins, Jalen Pitre."
On their opening drive, the Cowboys took an early 7-0 lead following Tony Pollard's 11-yard touchdown run. The Texans offense punted but got a second chance with a short field after LB Blake Cashman recovered the muffed punt return by Dallas. Pierce scored on a one-yard touchdown run to cap off a six-play, 24-yard scoring drive.
Early in the second quarter, Pollard found the endzone again, this time on a 10-yard pass from Prescott. The Cowboys regained the lead, up 14-10 with 12:28 left in the second quarter.
A second takeaway led to second touchdown for Houston. Tremon Smith picked off Prescott's deflected pass.
Driskel's second pass of the game was a 28-yard score to Amari Rodgers. Houston took a 17-14 lead with 2:23 left in the second quarter.
The Cowboys briefly tied the game after a 33-yard field goal, but the Texans responded with a 50-yard kick by Ka'imi Fairbairn. The Texans led 20-17 at halftime.
Houston's first possession of the second half ended in a Pierce fumble, recovered by Dallas. However, the Texans defense came up with a big stop on fourth-and-goal when Desmond King tackled Elliott for a loss. The Texans offense began the drive at their own two-yard line, but was able to add a 54-yard field goal to extend the lead to six points.
In the fourth quarter, Tremon Smith picked off Prescott for a second time and Houston took over at the Dallas four-yard line. With Dameon Pierce out of the game, the Texans were unable to convert the third takeaway into points after four attempts.
"You know, first-and-goal inside the five, the plan would have been a little bit different, but nobody want to hear about injuries," Smith said. "We've had quite a few. If Dameon would have been healthy and ready to go, of course he would have been in there."
Prescott took over from his own two-yard line to orchestrate an 11-play, 98-yard drive that ended in an Elliottt two-yard go-ahead touchdown. The Cowboys gained a 27-23 lead with 46 seconds remaining and held off the Texans final drive.
With the loss, the Texans fall to 1-11-1 and will next host Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15.
Browse photos from the Texans, Cowboys Week 14 matchup.