Texans beat Cowboys in overtime after Jason Garrett’s questionable punt

October 8, 2018

All game long, the Houston Texans knocked on the Dallas Cowboys’ doorstep. More often than not they were turned away.

But when it counted most, the Texans did just enough in a 19-16 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Meeting for only the fifth time ever, with the Cowboys winning the past three entering Sunday night, the Texans earned their first victory in the series since the franchise’s inaugural game in 2002.

The Texans kept opening the door for Dallas to beat them. When the Cowboys had a chance to put their foot down in overtime, they in essence opted to play for the road tie, putting the game in the hands of their defense. The move didn’t pay off.

Texans QB Deshaun Watson hit DeAndre Hopkins on a 49-yard pass on Houston’s second possession of overtime to set up a game-winning field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn for a second straight victory (the franchise’s first back-to-back wins since 2016) following the team’s 0-3 start. But it was hardly as easy as it could have been.

Despite driving inside the Dallas 3-yard line five times in regulation, the Texans managed only 16 points on those possessions. Three times they settled for field goals, they scored one touchdown and were stopped once on fourth down right before the half that could have been a huge momentum changer. The Texans also missed a field-goal try on their opening possession, lost a fumble and were picked after driving into Dallas territory in the final minute of the game.

And if that wasn’t bad on offense, Texans CB Kareem Jackson missed on a chance for a pick-six in the waning seconds of the game, making it feel like Dallas would steal the game at a moment’s notice. But the Cowboys largely struggled on offense — outside of a few wild plays from Dak Prescott — and got ultra-conservative in OT.

Head coach Jason Garrett opted to punt on 4th-and-1 on the opening possession of overtime despite driving to the Houston 42-yard line. It ended up costing him and the Cowboys, who fell to 2-3.

Watson showed guts in taking a slew of big hits, one of the biggest coming on the Texans’ final offensive play of the first half. On 4th-and-goal, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien opted to go for a touchdown, showing as much guts earlier as Garrett would show fear later. Watson split for the edge but was stoned on a brilliant tackle by Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith, who had a whale of a game.

Instead of a 17-6 lead, the Texans were up only 10-6 at the half. And the Cowboys soon stole that lead back after Cowboys CB Anthony Brown stripped Hopkins and ran back the fumble recovery to the Houston 16-yard line to open the third quarter. The Cowboys turned that into a touchdown, with Prescott hitting Allen Hurns for a score to take the lead, 13-10.

Things looked dire then for the Texans, but the Cowboys also committed their share of mistakes. They missed on a chance for even more points on their next series when Texans rookie safety Justin Reid picked off Prescott, ending a promising drive. That was followed by some costly penalties down the stretch.

A bad holding call against Connor Williams late in the third quarter cost them a first down on offense, and two more defensive penalties hurt more. First, Randy Gregory was called for hands to the face, which wiped out a 4th-and-1 situation and gave the Texans a first down. Then CB Bryon Jones was flagged for the first pass interference call of his four-year career, giving Houston the ball at the Dallas 1-yard line.

Three failed plays and the Texans were forced to kick a field goal.

Prescott got the ball back and made one of the best plays of his career. A true Tony Romo impression, Prescott avoided a sack from J.J. Watt, flushed the pocket to his left (with the ball in his left hand), switched it back to his right and fired the ball 44 yards downfield (and across his body) to Tavon Austin for a stunning conversion. The Cowboys would stall after that but tie the game, 13-all, on clutch rookie K Brett Maher’s 48-yard field goal.

They’d go to overtime, where Watson and Hopkins got them close enough for the game-winning kick. Watson finished 33-for-44 passing for 375 yards with a TD and an interception. Hopkins caught nine passes (on 13 targets) for 151 yards and also helped break up a Hail Mary attempt at the end of regulation while playing one snap at safety.

Prescott’s fleeting brilliance aside, the Cowboys’ offense struggled. They had only 13 first downs and 259 yards of offense in regulation, and Garrett’s lack of aggression really cost them in OT with a chance to steal a victory. The Cowboys’ defense — led by Smith, who is becoming a star — chipped in with several huge moments after failing to make many game-changing plays in the season’s first four games, but it wasn’t enough.

Whichever team lost this game probably wasn’t going to feel too good, of course, and the Texans can’t feel too great about the win considering how much effort it took. Watson also took a beating from the Cowboys, absorbing 10 hits and many of them big. But O’Brien is temporarily off the hot seat, and the Texans suddenly find themselves back in contention in the AFC South, considering the other three division teams lost in Week 5.

It’s not pretty, there were too many lost yards and points left on the field, and Watson might not hold up at this rate, but the Texans — who at one point had a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season — suddenly have stacked two big victories.

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