IRVING, Texas – Under a somber cloud Friday, the Texans suffered their first defeat of the preseason while playing the majority of the game with heavy hearts.
In a 23-22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the teams’ final meeting at Texas Stadium, the Texans had to wait more than 10 agonizing minutes in the first quarter after wide receiver Harry Williams lay motionless on the turf with a neck injury.
Williams, a special teams standout, was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation after inadvertently colliding with safety Nick Ferguson (Read more).
The impact of the loss was evident in the subsequent minutes as the Cowboys scored 10 unanswered points to take an early lead. But the Texans showed their mettle the remainder of the game by forcing two Dallas turnovers deep in Houston territory. A third takeaway on special teams helped the Texans stay in the game.
With 2:05 left in the contest, backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels rushed eight yards and dove over the goal line to make the score 23-22. But coach Gary Kubiak wanted to win the game outright, so he kept the offense on the field for a two-point conversion. Despite what appeared to be an offsides penalty on Dallas, no flag was thrown and Rosenfels’ pass to Jacoby Jones was tipped incomplete.
Even with the loss, the Texans showed amazing heart and determination in outscoring Dallas 19-13 after Williams was carted off the field. Quarterback Matt Schaub completed 15-of-27 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, while running backs Chris Taylor and Steve Slaton accounted for 91 yards on 21 carries (4.3 avg.).
On special teams, kicker Kris Brown converted each of his three field goal attempts, and the Texans had kickoff returns of 68 and 52 yards by Andre Davis and Jacoby Jones, respectively.
Williams was injured on the kickoff return following Brown's 44-yard field goal, and after a long delay the Cowboys mounted a seven-play, 51-yard drive that wide receiver Patrick Crayton finished with a six-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Tony Romo.
Following a three-and-out by the Texans, Cowboys kicker Nick Folk hit a 48-yard field goal to cap a seven-play, 41-yard scoring drive and put the Cowboys up 10-3.
After another stalled drive by the Texans' offense, Romo faked a handoff on second-and-one from the Texans' one-yard line and rolled to his right before firing a ball to tight end Tony Curtis. Linebacker Zac Diles stepped in front of the pass and tapped two feet down in the end zone to collect an interception with 14:15 left before halftime.
Schaub found his rhythm on the ensuing possession. He connected on two third down conversions and totaled 33 yards on three completions on the series. Slaton picked up a first down into Dallas territory after a game-long 20-yard rush, and Schaub found wide receiver Kevin Walter for an 11-yard touchdown to finish the 12-play, 80-yard drive over 6:17.
Prior to the two-minute warning, Romo completed passes totaling 49 yards to four different receivers to help the Cowboys reach the Texans' one-yard line. On third down, Barber dove over a pile of linemen to score a touchdown, making the score 17-10 with 1:56 on the game clock.
Schaub kept the offense moving with completions to Walter, Taylor and Daniels to move the Texans near midfield. But on third-and-three from the Dallas 42, Schaub's pass to Davis fell incomplete to bring on the punt team.
A 13-yard scramble by Romo and a 32-yard pass to wide receiver Sam Hurd gave Dallas with a first down at the Houston 30 with 16 seconds left in the first half. Three plays later, Folk booted a 41-yard field goal to give the Cowboys a 20-10 halftime lead.
Safety Brandon Harrison popped the ball loose on Stanback's opening kickoff return of the second half, and safety Nick Ferguson recovered the fumble at the Dallas 35. Slaton picked up 13 yards to the nine-yard line, and Walter made a nine-yard reception to set up a third-and-five situation. But Schaub's pass to Slaton sailed high, giving Brown a 23-yard field goal attempt that made the score 20-13.
The Cowboys' offense continued to move the ball even with veteran Brad Johnson replacing Romo behind center. Rookie tight end Martellus Bennett's 29-yard catch and run put Dallas within scoring range. But the Texans forced their third turnover of the game when defensive end Mario Williams tackled running back Felix Jones in the backfield and hit the ball out. Rookie defensive tackle Frank Okam recovered the fumble on the Texans' six-yard line.
Schaub came out firing from the end zone with a 29-yard strike to Davis. An illegal formation penalty set up a third-and-nine, but Schaub hit Walter for a 23-yard completion to the Dallas 44 to keep the chains moving. Taylor bulldozed his way for 22 yards on four carries to bring Houston into scoring range. After fullback Vonta Leach dropped an open catch in the flats, Brown nailed a 29-yard field goal to cut Dallas' lead to 20-16 with 14:20 left in the game.
An illegal block in the back by Harrison on the Cowboys' first punt of the game moved the Texans back 10 yards to their 11-yard line with 12:39 left in the contest. Running back Darius Walker picked up 25 yards on five total touches, but Matt Turk punted on fourth-and-three from the Houston 42.
Following Folk's 35-yard field goal that extended Dallas' lead to 23-16, the Texans' offense began its 10th drive from the Cowboys' 44-yard line thanks to Jacoby Jones' 52-yard return. A 19-yard pass interference penalty and a seven-yard catch by Mark Simmons gave Houston a first down at the one-yard line. But Dallas challenged the catch, and the officials reversed their call.
On third-and-goal at the eight-yard line, Rosenfels dropped back two steps and rushed through the middle of the defense, soaring over the goal line for a touchdown.
After the failed two-point conversion, the Texans forced their fourth turnover when defensive tackle Anthony Maddox sacked Johnson and forced a fumble that he recovered at the Cowboys' 13-yard line. But the takeaway was negated by cornerback Derrick Roberson's holding penalty, which allowed Dallas to run out the remainder of the game clock.