Week 14 vs. Cowboys | Harris Hits

Houston Texans Team Analyst John Harris shares his notes from the Texans Week 14 game against the Dallas Cowboys.

My heart is still not doing well after those three plus hours of football at AT&T Stadium. In a season that hasn't been successful, wins so tough to come by, yet, YET there the Texans were in a dogfight, shoot, LEADING that dogfight, against THAT team…DAMMIT! The Texans sat six inches away from taking a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter with the clock nearing four minutes remaining. Yet, when the clock hit all zeroes, the Cowboys won 27-23.

DAMMIT…again!

Here are my Harris Hits from what was an incredible football game and one heck of an effort by our Texans.

All teams have injuries and issues in week 14 of a football season, but the Texans were down their top two WRs, their top two CBs against a 9-3 football team in their own building and swapped haymakers all day long. Dudes stepped up in a MAJOR WAY.

DB Jalen Pitre played the best game of his career and we've thought that since his performance at Miami. He dropped the hammer on receivers. He filled in the run game. He patrolled the middle of the field. Good gosh, thinking back on the game, he was so incredibly good. The way that he closed on the ball no matter where it was on the field was impressive. He missed a tackle early in the game on a Zeke Elliott run, but after that, he went to another zone like he had at Miami and against Cleveland. He broke up a pass to Noah Brown down in the Texans low red zone. I mean, he seemed to come out of nowhere to make that play. He dropped the hammer on WR James Washington to dislodge the ball on a throw from Dak Prescott. He was just outstandingly excellent.

Marc Vandermeer and I interviewed DL Maliek Collins last week and he was awesome on the mic as per usual in his subtle, funny way. But, we asked him about going to Dallas to face his former team. He downplayed the matchup, but on the field, it showed that this one meant a great deal to him. Early in the game, Collins just dominated the Cowboys on wide-zone plays. He finished with one tackle for a loss but it felt like it should've been two or three, honestly. He was so difficult to block throughout the day for the Cowboys and since his re-arrival after the injury in Las Vegas, the Texans run defense has improved slowly but surely.

Without Nico Collins and Brandin Cooks in the lineup, naturally, there were questions about the Texans receiving corps heading into this matchup. But, Chris Moore stepped into the void and delivered a career performance. He finished with ten catches for 124 yards, both career highs. He told me after the game that he accepted, and relished, the opportunity to step into the so-called WR1 role. He was targeted eleven times and caught ten of those passes, the only one that he didn't was an excellent play by Cowboys CB Kelvin Joseph. Y'all know how much I've been a fan of Chris Moore for a long while but today was the best I've seen him play. He was THE bonafide weapon for this team throughout the day. Lest I forget, what receiver in the league had double digit catches, downed a punt at the one and had one of the best form tackles in the open field on a punt return on Sunday?

One.

Chris. Moore.

I've been on the sideline since 2014 and I've seen some QB roulette during games over the last nine years but nothing quite like we saw on Sunday. Jeff Driskel was brought up from the practice squad and entered the game on the second series of the game after Blake Cashman recovered a KaVontae Turpin fumble on a punt return. Driskel and RB Dameon Pierce alternated carries, with a Moore reception mixed in, until Pierce rammed it home to tie the game at seven. A few series later, Driskel rolled out to the right side of the formation and threw one deep to WR Amari Rodgers at the goal line. The former Clemson star leapt in the air and snatched the ball over the head of S Donovan Wilson for a touchdown to take a 17-14 lead. Driskel ran it seven times for 36 yards and was four of six for 38 yards and a touchdown through the air. In the end, Driskel and Davis Mills each played 32 snaps on the day. It's rare for an Uber-like sharing situation to work at QB, but it certainly did.

It was fantastic to see Rodgers making plays repeatedly in this game. He had four catches and three of them truly stand out in my mind. The touchdown catch is obviously one of those. But, he had a second down crossing route that he caught and sprinted up field for a key first down. Then, later in the game on a key third and six to start the fourth quarter, he had what I thought was as great a catch as I saw yesterday. Rodgers circled up into a zone between two Cowboys. QB Davis Mills spied him and threw low and away from the closest defender - great throw, actually. Rodgers went down and snatched the ball with two hands, never letting the ball get into his body for eight yards and a first down with the Texans ahead 20-17.

DL Ogbo Okoronkwo was so good in the fourth quarter that he forced the Cowboys to take out one OT and put another in the game. On first down late in the fourth quarter, Okoronkwo beat RT Josh Ball on an inside move then swiped to get clean to Dak Prescott. He hit the Cowboys QB before Prescott could deliver the ball. The Cowboys recovered the fumble but it was a loss of ten yards. On the next play, Ogbo darted inside then flew around the edge, getting his hand on Prescott's throwing hand. The ball fluttered into the hands of Tremon Smith, his second interception of the day. During the final Cowboys series, the Cowboys took Ball out and put 40-year old Jason Peters over at right tackle to help out on Ogbo. That's how good he was on the day.

Speaking of Tremon Smith, there haven't been many Texans games I've seen with a player having multiple interceptions. Jalen Pitre had one of those earlier this season. Johnathan Joseph had a couple of them that I remember. But, Smith wouldn't have been on the field if Steven Nelson hadn't injured his ankle in the second quarter. Following a Texans punt early in the second quarter, I was on the far end of the field so as I moved down to the other side of the field, I could see that Tremon was on the field. That immediately led me to look for Nelson and whether he was injured or getting a rest. As I made my way down the sideline, I saw a Dak Prescott pass pop up in the air. Then, Tremon reached out and snatched that throw and flew up the sidelines for 26 yards. Rodgers' TD catch came two plays later for a 17-14 lead.

Cowboys star defender Micah Parsons had no sacks, no TFL, no QB hits and was quiet for much of the afternoon. He's the DPOY in the NFL and for good reason but the Texans OL slowed him down extensively. Now, Parsons pointed out how the Texans used the quick game often and got rid of the football quickly, but they did drop to throw it 27 times. In totality, the OL gave up just one QB hit and no sacks. What a difference that made for this offense!

K Kai'mi Fairbairn was three for three on his field goals. The last two were 53- and 54-yard field goals. BOMBS! The second one came on the last play of the half after a five play, 43-yard drive in just forty seconds after the Cowboys kicked a field goal with forty seconds left in the half.

LB Christian Kirksey had one of his better games, in my opinion. He came OH SO close to another pick, hitting the turbo boosters to leap up in the way of a pass headed down the seam. Although he didn't come down with that one, he finished with ten tackles and was all over the field.

DT Taylor Stallworth fit in as if he's been in Houston all season long. He's stout at the point of attack and he got off blocks violently, involving himself in the run defense throughout the game. He finished with four tackles and a TFL. He needs to be involved even more on this defense over the last four games of the season because it can just get better and better. I love what Stallworth brings to it.

DB Desmond King II continues to have a fantastic season. It was his tackle for a loss that kept the Cowboys out of the end zone on the Texans goal line stand. He finished with two TFL and seven overall tackles. He's just playing exceptionally well out on the perimeter in both facets.

Fellow DB M.J Stewart made a HUGE play on Tremon Smith's first interception. He was in zone, playing curl to flat underneath coverage. A route took him inside for a split second, then he passed that route on to the linebackers and saw Cowboys WR Noah Brown running a slant route in his vicinity. He then transitioned into that throwing lane and got a finger, maybe two, on the pass that Brown then tipped into the waiting hands of Tremon Smith.

How about these comparisons? The Texans had five QB hits to the Cowboys one. The Texans had one sack to the Cowboys' none. The Texans had four TFL and the Cowboys did have the same. The Texans had three turnovers that led to 14 points. The Cowboys picked up a fumble and a pick on the last play of the game. It's just a shame that the Texans played exceptionally well in that building, but couldn't finish the game with a W.

Six inches. That's all that separated the Texans from taking a 30-20 lead with just over four minutes left in the game. But, it didn't happen and that made the last 18 hours so frustrating. But, gotta flush it and get ready for some guy named Mahomes. See ya then, everyone!

Tap to browse tickets for the Houston Texans next home game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs here.

Browse photos from the Texans, Cowboys Week 14 matchup.

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