The Cowboys finally won a preseason game this year, thanks to the Texans’ Jacoby Jones dropping a 2-pt. conversion pass from QB Sage Rosenfels allowing Dallas to hold on to a slim 23-22 victory. Even after the failed attempt, it took another Texans mistake to seal the game for Dallas. With just under two minutes left, Dallas was facing a 3rd-and-11 from their own 23-yard line when QB Brad Johnson was sacked going back to pass. Houston had called their final timeout just before the play, so if Dallas could just get a first down, the game would be over. Houston was called for holding on the play, giving the Cowboys an automatic first down and they were then able to run-out the clock to preserve the victory.
While Dallas did look impressive at times in the first half, they also had some terrible turnovers that made the game much closer than it should have been. Romo, who ended the day 15-of-19 for 166 yards with one touchdown and one interception, missed some plays to Terrell Owens he should have made and the pick in the red zone was very costly, leading to a touchdown for the Texans. Marion Barber was impressive, as was the first team offensive line overall, with 75-yards rushing and a TD.
The scariest play in the game, however, was on a kick-off return by Isaiah Stanback, who made a nice return, but Texans WR Harry Williams collided head-to-chest with one of his own players and remained motionless on the field for several minutes. He eventually was led off the field on a stretcher and kept completely immobilized. It was later learned he had full movement of his arms and legs and is expected to make a full recovery. Just a reminder to us all how dangerous the game can be.
As for Stanback, he made a good return on that play, but at the start of the second half, he fumbled the kick-off giving the Texans great field postion, making the second turnover of the game for Dallas. All totalled, the Texans received 13 points from Dallas turnovers, making this game much closer than it should ever have been. Stanback also suffered a shoulder injury on the tackle and wouldn€™t return to the game.
The Cowboys moved the ball practically at will during the first and second quarters, only stopping themselves on the Romo interception, while the Texans struggled offensively at first. Matt Schaub was not throwing the ball well and the running game, behind mostly second-team RB’, was getting stuffed. But after the Zach Diles interception in their own endzone, the Texans marched 80-yards quite handily to tie the game at 10 all. Dallas responded with a nice drive of their own resulting in a 1-yard MBIII touchdown run and got a Nick Folk field goal just before the half after a good two-minute drill, to get to a 20-10 half-time score.
Although it was rumored that Romo and company would play deep into the third quarter, he and several others such as T.O., Witten, Barber and Crayton did not return after the half, but the first team OL and Brad Johnson took over. After a decent drive following the Texans field-goal off the Stanback fumble, rookie RB Felix Jones missed a handoff from Johnson inside the Texans’ 10-yard line and gave the ball back to Houston for Dallas’ second redzone turnover of the night. Matt Schaub, who was still in the game for the Texans, marched them down the field about 80+ yards for another FG, closing the score to 20-16.
Brad Johnson again led the team on a well-orchestrated drive following a good return of the kick off and a long pass reception by WR Danny Amendola from Johnson, but the end result was just another FG by Nick Folk making it a 23-16 lead shortly into the fourth quarter now. Sage Rosenfels entered the game for the Texans, who had a good season last year filling in for an injured Matt Schaub, and led the Texans on their final drive of the evening finishing it off with an 8-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown to cut the lead to 23-22. His next pass just bounced off the fingertips of WR Jacoby Jones on the 2-pt. attempt and , as they say, the rest is history.
The Cowboys did improve on several areas over the prior two games, but not the kick coverage aspect. The Texans had one big return on the opening kick off, a 68-yarder by WR Andre Davis of the Texans, which set-up their first field goal and another 50+ yarder late in the game setting up the last Houston touchdown. The Cowboys did have a couple of good returns on punts and kicks themselves, other than the fumble to open the second half, but there is stil much work to be done on kick coverage teams.
Penalties were kept to a low, with only 5 for 38 yards over the span of the game although at least two of them were rather questionable calls late in the game. One was an interference call against S Pat Watkins and the other an illegal contact against CB Evan Oglesby that greatly assisted the Texans in their touchdown drive.
The starting offenses and defenses played very well, for the most part, but their is still a question as to some of the second and third teamers. The second-string OL had trouble protecting Brad Johnson and in run blocking while the second-string defense committed some penalties and had trouble stopping the run game.
An interesting fact that was mentioned in the game was the brother of Marion Barber, Dominique Barber, who is a back-up S trying to make the Houston team, might get to play in the game. He did get a little playing time, but never while his brother was also playing.