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Cowboys Lose Again In Houston

Whether it’s preseason or the regular season, the Cowboys just don’t seem to show-up to play in Houston.  Last night there were few Cowboys highlights and lots of big plays by the Texans as they defeated their in-state rivals 28-16 in a highly anticipated game for both teams.  The Cowboys starters played well into the third quarter but never really put any pressure on the Texans starters who held a commanding 21-13 lead going into the fourth quarter. 

witten_houston.jpgThe Dallas offense started out shaky and the special teams and defense seemed to have trouble tackling all night, as evidenced by the 91-yard punt return by Houston’s Jacoby Jones after the first punt of the evening by P Matt McBriar.   In the first half, the Cowboys punted after three consecutive 3 and outs and only had one significant drive that led to a 35-yard TD reception by Terrell Owens that was mainly the result of three Houston defenders knocking each other off of the tackle.  But Owens’ catch and run was certainly the best play of the first half for the Cowboys, who then missed the extra point try when K Martin Grammatica simply pushed the kick to the right and was no good. 

The second half wasn’t much better although the Cowboys starters did hold the Texans on their opening drive and then marched down to score on an 18-yard pass from Romo to Jason Witten who made a great catch on the play.  But this only cut the lead to 21-13 and neither team accomplished much after that. 

“I didn’t see many good things on our part tonight,” Phillips said. “As a team, special teams, offense, defense . . . we didn’t play well. We’ve got a lot of work to do. This is the first time we’ve been in a hostile environment and we didn’t react well.”

The first half was certainly much different for the Cowboys defense, who had led the Colts at halftime 14-6 two weeks ago, and then 24-6 against the Broncos last Saturday, both good running teams.  Whereas the Texans  racked up 142 yards on the Cowboys,  most in the first half, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.  Texans RB Ahman Green had most the yardage in one terrific run for 46-yards which set-up Houston’s second touchdown.  For their part, the Cowboys ran for only 57 yards, led by 34 from Julius Jones on 10 carries while Marion Barber was held to just 14 yards on 6 carries.

But stopping the run had been a strength for the Cowboys so far in preseason, they had entered this week as the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense, allowing just 42.0 yards per game. “If you don’t stop the run, it’s hard to do anything,” said LB Bradie James, who led the team with eight tackles. “We need to shore up a few things if we want to be as good as we think we can be.” 

Although this loss only sent the Governor’s Cup back to Houston, more importantly for new head coach Wade Phillips, it was an eye-opening example that his team might not be as  ready for the regular season as he had previously thought.

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