Near the end of the ‘70s Roger Staubach faced off against the Earl Campbell-led Oilers in a Lonestar shootout that ended with Houston on top, 30-24. In the mid ‘80s, the Cowboys defense would tie an NFL record by sacking Warren Moon 12 times. These organizations went in opposite directions in the ‘90s, with Dallas winning three Super Bowls in four years, while Houston moved to Tennessee. But after 16 years of no football in Houston, the Cowboys would make the trip south to play the Houston Texans in their inaugural game in 2002. The Texans wouldn’t win many games that year (4-12), but they did beat the Cowboys as Dallas would finish 5-11 for the third-straight season, ending Dave Campo’s tenure as the head coach and opening the door for Bill Parcells.
The last time these teams met was in 2014 where it took overtime for the Cowboys to win the game 20-17. And it consisted of everyone’s favorite play. I have no words for it, it is Watt it is.
Tony Romo came up with some big plays in that game, Dez Bryant hauled down a big catch, and Dan Bailey redeemed himself with the game-winning kick. But those guys are all gone now. Instead of picking a star like Ezekiel Elliott or DeMarcus Lawrence to make the difference, we’re going to look for an out-of-the-way player who will be the x-factor, the guys who makes some big plays to change the game. Let’s check in with the front page writers and see what they have to say.
Tom Ryle: Chidobe Awuzie
Awuzie got picked on a lot by Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions receivers. While the numbers posted against him show a really bad day, a closer look at the video reveals that his coverage was, at times, very good, with basically perfect throws the only way some passes could be completed. Deshaun Watson has not been nearly as accurate as Stafford was last Sunday, and has thrown a pick in each of his first four games. The Cowboys, as you are aware, have not gotten an interception yet this season. Something has to give, and if the Texans give Byron Jones the “we ain’t going his way” treatment the Lions did, then Awuzie is the most likely DB to break the string for Dallas. If he is able to put last week’s game behind him, this could be a very big game for him.
Danny Phantom: Jeff Heath
Deshaun Watson has thrown a pick in every game so far this season, so if the Cowboys are the one team that can’t come away with an interception against him, then I’ll be thoroughly convinced they got some hocus pocus weird voodoo jinx going against them this season. And who better to end the interception drought than Jeff Heath. Over the last three seasons, no Cowboys player has more picks than Heath as he’s led the team in interceptions in two of the last three seasons. That is both exciting and sad... correction, it’s just sad.
While Heath has been on the wrong end of some big plays for opposing offenses, he is one of the few defensive backs that have shown up at the end of games to seal the victory. Watson is a deep-ball thrower and it just feels like this game is going to be won or lost with how well the safeties play on Sunday night. I think we are about due for a game saving play from Mr. Heath.
Dave Halprin: Randy Gregory
The Texans will be hyper-focused on trying to control DeMarcus Lawrence. They won’t succeed totally, but all that attention should open up opportunities for other players. In this game, Randy Gregory will be the beneficiary. Gregory has had a tough start to the year, failing to produce and missing time due to injury. There was plenty of hype for him heading into the season but so far it’s been a dud. This is the week that changes as he gets a sack, a couple of tackles for loss and is generally disruptive.
Michael Sisemore: Red zone offense
I’m going in a different direction here but this is going to be the biggest factor in the game. Who can put the ball in the end zone? The Texans defense have allowed their opponents to score on 79% of their red zone attempts, that’s sixth-worst in the league. The Cowboys offense has only scored on 40% of their trips, which is fourth-worst in the league. Whether it’s Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Geoff Swaim, Tavon Austin, or Cole Beasley...this team needs TOUCHDOWNS! The Texans are also scoring 24 points per game to the Cowboys, who are under 17. That must change because this Houston defense is allowing 27 points per game to opponents, while Dallas is Top-10 in scoring defense. The Texans offense is also 44% in the red zone, the Cowboys defense will help their offense but they must to do their part and score points.
Who do you think will be the X-Factor player of the game?