ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Houston Texans declared their intention to go back to Davis Mills as the starting quarterback.
They kept the wrinkle to themselves, and had the Dallas Cowboys just enough off kilter to flirt with a big upset.
Jeff Driskel threw his first touchdown pass since 2020 sharing snaps with Mills, but the offensive changeup couldn't deliver when needed most in a 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Driskel was stopped on a fourth-down run late in the fourth quarter after cornerback Tremon Smith's second interception of Dak Prescott set up the Texans at the Dallas 4-yard line with a three-point lead.
With the second chance, Prescott directed a 98-yard drive to Ezekiel Elliott's go-ahead touchdown with 41 seconds remaining as the Texans (1-11-1) lost their eighth consecutive game. Dallas (10-3) is on a four-game winning streak.
The Texans were trying to pad their lead without rookie running back Dameon Pierce, who had been ruled out with an ankle injury. Coach Lovie Smith said Pierce would have been on the field for the key sequence had he been available.
“It’s tough,” Driskel said. “Defense gives it to us on the (4) and everybody on our sideline thought there’s no way we don’t get this ball in. I thought every snap we were going to be able to get it in.”
Rex Burkhead lost a yard on first down, then Driskel threw underneath to Chris Moore, who had career highs with 10 catches for 124 yards but was stopped around the 1.
Moore appeared close to breaking the plane when he reached forward with the ball as he was tackled, but Smith didn't challenge.
“If it’s close, we’re looking at it,” Smith said. “We have the people up there. If we don’t know for sure, we’ll challenge it.”
Smith faced another big decision after Burkhead was upended for a 2-yard loss by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence on third down. Smith decided to go for the TD rather than a six-point lead with what could have been a fourth field goal from Ka'imi Fairbairn.
Driskel's path to the goal line around right end was blocked by linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore.
“They had more bodies out there than maybe we wanted,” Driskel said. “It was fourth down and I tried to put my foot in the ground and get vertical and they beat us on that step.”
Prescott immediately got the Cowboys away from their end zone on his second chance, completing a 21-yard pass to tight end Dalton Schultz. They hooked up twice more, the latter putting Dallas at the Houston 4.
The Texans had a big pass breakup on second down but didn't offer much resistance on Elliott's go-ahead run on an otherwise solid day for the NFL's worst run defense.
The Cowboys, coming off a season-high 220 yards rushing, had just 127. The Texans also limited Prescott to 20-of-33 passing with two interceptions before he went 6 of 6 for 79 yards on the winning drive.
“We were kind of doing what we normally do. We mix it up,” Smith said. “Gave them as many looks as we could. Dak Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks in our game, and he’s going to hit some. I think they kind of showed a little bit of the champion in them.”
The Texans mostly ran with Driskel, but one of his few throws was on the run and went 28 yards for Amari Rodgers' first career touchdown.
While the Texans got their only touchdowns off the first two Dallas turnovers, they converted nearly 50% of their third downs after coming in a league-worst 26.5%.
Mills, who was 16 of 21 for 175 yards, returned as the starter after getting benched for two games. His replacement, Kyle Allen, was inactive this week.
“Early in the week, we decided to go with this plan,” Smith said. “I thought Davis did some good passing the football. In the combination with Jeff Driskel, he did some good things, too.”
Pierce ran for 78 yards with a TD before being unable to return.
“We felt like we had the game won,” Rodgers said. “I'm proud of the team. With the record the way it is, we came out here, we still fought.”
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