What We Saw: Week 14

The What We Saw team recaps all of the noteworthy action from Week 14

Texans @ Cowboys

Final Score: Cowboys 27, Texans 23

Writer: Michael James (@MikeoftheFF on Twitter)


The Houston Texans travel to AT&T Stadium in Arlington TX to face the Dallas Cowboys in the continuation of the AFC South playing the NFC East.  The Texans are swapping starters by the week to see what they have while the Cowboys are leading the chase in the wild card for the playoffs.  Dallas gets the ball first and drives it 76 yards in nine plays highlighted with an Ezekiel Elliott 25-yard rush through a gap setting up Tony Pollard to take an end-around to the outside and run it in for the touchdown to put the Cowboys up seven.  After going three-and-out, the Texans got a change of luck as the punt returner for Dallas whiffed the catch allowing the Texans to take over just outside the red zone.  After the first three and out, Coach Smith has pulled Davis Mills in favor of Jeff Driskel.  With the new set of downs, the Texans drive up to the goal line and Dameon Pierce punches it in to tie the game up at seven.



A bit later Mills was back in the game and it looked like we have a quarterback by committee on our hands.  It was a doozy as Mills hits Chris Moore for a 36-yard bomb that was reviewed and sustained.  The broadcast said no it was not and New York says yes it was so it stands.  That gorgeous-looking throw earned him a ride to the bench as Driskel was swapped back in mid-drive.  After their 3rd down is stuffed, Ka’imi Fairbairn came out to put the Texans up by three.  Cut to Dallas sputtering on offense until facing 3rd and long when Dak Prescott scrambled right and lobs it 51 yards to Noah Brown to save the drive and put the Cowboys deep in Houston territory.  That set up Prescott to hit Pollard in the flat who took it down the sideline for his second touchdown of the day for the Cowboys to reclaim the lead by four.



After trading punts, Prescott looked to thread a tight window to Brown, but the ball didn’t fit and is deflected up and brought down by Texans cornerback Tremon Smith to give the ball to Houston right outside the red zone.  Driskel rolled out and found Amari Rodgers in double coverage who brought it down at the goal line for the touchdown to put the Texans up by three.  Dallas got another shot but safety Jalen Pitre became Visa, everywhere the Texans wanted him to be.  He had multiple passes defended on this drive forcing the Cowboys to settle with a Brett Maher field goal to tie the game at 17 a piece.  After another deep ball to Moore, Houston marched down to set up a 50-yard Fairbairn field goal to take the lead going into the half, 20-17.



Coming out of the half the Texans got the ball, but Pierce fumbled it into Trevon Diggs‘s hands for the turnover.  Ten plays and ten handoffs in a row later, Elliott was stuffed on fourth down turning it back over to Houston on downs.   The Texans drove to Dallas territory highlighted by a Pierce hard run for 24 yards breaking multiple tackles.  They leaned on Fairbairn again to get another field goal to push the lead by another three points.  The Cowboys took the next drive across midfield on a 24-yard pass to Michael Gallup to set them up for a Maher field goal to bring it within three.  After trading a few punts, Dallas was backed up to their own 2-yard line where Prescott was hit as he threw putting the ball squarely in place for Smith to intercept the ball for a second time.  The Texans ended up facing 4th-and-goal on the three-yard line.  Unfortunately for the Texans, there was a miscommunication between Driskel and his running back and the play was busted and stopped on fourth down for a turnover on downs.



Down three and with a little more than 3 minutes to go, Prescott took the team no-huddle and drove 98 yards, highlighted by Dalton Schultz who went three receptions for 51 yards receiving on just this drive.  That set up Elliott to punch it into the end zone for the touchdown and juke the Salvation Army kettle. After a Maher extra point, Houston needed a touchdown with 41 seconds left in the game.  Mills was the quarterback for the final drive and he hit Moore in the middle of the field for 31 yards to midfield.  With 14 seconds left, Laremy Tunsil had back-to-back false start penalties forcing the Hail Mary.  Mills’ throw to the end zone was a beauty that landed in between four Dallas defensive backs who fight over who gets the ball for the interception stat, and the game ended with Dallas just barely escaping with the win.




Houston Texans




Davis Mills: 16/21, 175 Yards, INT | 1 Carry, 2 Yards
Jeff Driskel: 4/6, 38 Yards, TD | 7 Carries, 36 Yards


So the Texans had a new wrinkle to unveil today.  Kyle Allen was inactive for this game, and Davis Mills started the game.  But after their opening drive concluded, Houston put in Jeff Driskel.  Even more interesting, Dallas had fumbled that punt meaning Houston got it right back and they still opted to go for the swap.  It turns out Driskel was elevated from the practice squad for this game as the Texans designed package plays for him this week.  I have to admit, I do not follow the Texans super close so this came as a surprise to me.  It seemed to be a surprise for Dallas too, as Driskel’s mobility seemed to fluster the pass rush rendering it mostly ineffective.  This is something that most teams have been unable to do opposing the Cowboys and the Texans are the first team this season to prevent Dallas from getting a single sack.  They held Michah Parsons back as the spy which had the broadcast team scratching their heads as to why they would use him specifically and not someone else.

The scheme worked, and for the majority of the game, Houston had the lead.  They were 50% on third down conversions for this game and nullified the pressure from Dallas for 3 quarters.  Driskel used his mobility to punish when the pocket would collapse and escape defenders.  This seemed to also inspire Mills as he was able to use his legs as well to escape pressure.  He even had a nasty juke on a pursuing Dallas lineman turning a loss into a gain.  While they did manage to bend the Dallas defense, they never managed to break them just barely eclipsing 200 total passing yards.  They began rotating quarterbacks in the same drive to employ Driskel’s mobility on certain down packages while Mills was the clear “passing” quarterback.  That’s not to take away from Driskel, as he did have a touchdown pass and completed 4 of 6 passes for a 123 QBR.  But he also had some miscues such as giving the ball to the running back on an option play where he was stuffed as the broadcast highlighted he had a wide-open hole that would have netted them a touchdown if he had opted to keep it.

That all said, this is neat for real-life football and miserable for fantasy.  There’s not really a point in going any further on this matter as neither quarterback will be desirable if this is to sustain moving forward.  A brief note, Mills’ interception was the Hail Mary play, and he can’t be faulted for that one.



Running Back


Dameon Pierce: 22 Carries, 78 Yards, TD, 1 Fumble (Lost)
Rex Burkhead: 2 Carries, -3 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 5 Yards
Dare Ogunbowale: 1 Carry, -3 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 4 Yards
Eno Benjamin: 3 Carries, 1 Yard


While Dallas is elite against the pass, they are middle of the pack in the NFL for rush defense.  Dameon Pierce took advantage of that today with his strength more than his speed.  He has that ability to make tacklers miss, but also has a crazy yards-after-contact stat that he put on display today highlighted by a 24-yard rush bulldozing through the Dallas’ secondary.  Unfortunately, he ended his day early with an ankle injury at the start of the fourth quarter.  He tried to go again but it was not meant to be which meant he got his 75+ yards and a touchdown in three-quarters of work.  He did get the ball punched out of his hands in the second half turning it over to Dallas.  Either way, he was sorely missed as Houston faced a 1st-and-goal on the 4-yard line at the end of the game and came away with zero points to show for it.  Rex Burkhead took over for him after he exited the game.



Wide Receiver/Tight End


Chris Moore: 11 Targets, 10 Receptions, 124 Yards
Amari Rodgers: 5 Targets, 4 Receptions, 57 Yards, TD | 1 Carry, 3 Yards
Phillip Dorsett: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 18 Yards
Jordan Akins: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 5 Yards


With Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins out, it was time for Chris Moore to step up and boy did he.  Ten catches for over 120 yards on a secondary that’s known for limiting an opponent’s passing game says they schemed something correctly.  I know the Dallas offense did not do their defense any favors by committing three turnovers, but the Texans came away with two touchdowns off those turnovers and while Moore didn’t catch them, he was integral in setting them up.  4 out of 5 scoring drives Moore had at least one catch including a 36-yard bomb in the first quarter and another huge catch at the end of the game which put the Texans into a decent position to go for the win before two offensive penalties would take them out of that position.  The Cowboys are generally susceptible to the slot receiver and Moore does line up out of the slot.  Today he got a little work in the other spots as well due to injuries limiting depth.

Also normally a slot receiver himself, Amari Rodgers stepped out of that role to fill in for the injured starters and caught himself a touchdown going deep down the sideline for 28 of his 57 yards on that play.  While he looked solid in his performance today, in fantasy he’s pretty far back on the depth chart but got his chance today and made the most of it.



Dallas Cowboys




Dak Prescott: 24/39, 284 Yards, TD, 2 INT | 6 Carries, 23 Yards

For an offense that just came off dumping 54 points last week, it is weird to hear that this was only the third time this season the Cowboys have scored on their opening drive this season.  I would classify this game as an ‘off’ game for Dak Prescott.  He had two interceptions on the day and honestly should have had a few more.  While he ended the day at a 61% completion at half time he was barely over 55%.  All game long he was throwing into super tight windows and I don’t know if Prescott insulted their dog earlier in the week or what, but the Texans’ defense was on point today.

There were multiple tipped, batted, and deflected passes.  This defensive effort was spear-headed by Jalen Pitre who had the most tackles on the team and two passes defended himself.  Overall, the defense came away with 11 (!) passes defended on the day.  Whether the Cowboys’ offense was stagnant or the Texans’ defense was on fire, the receivers were just not getting open.  On the hurry-up drive at the end of the game, Dak was facing additional pressure after losing his starting right tackle for the game and continued going to those tight windows in double (sometimes triple) coverage only this time he was completing them.  Now they were just clearing the defender’s arms, falling in on target instead of underthrown in front of them.  Kudos to him for not backing down, it did win them the game.



Running Back

Ezekiel Elliott: 15 Carries, 62 Yards, TD | 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 19 Yards
Tony Pollard: 10 Carries, 42 Yards, TD | 5 Targets, 4 Receptions, 20 Yards, TD


The dynamic duo does it again.  Dallas continues to produce two starting running backs in fantasy for people to argue who is the better start on their rankings and podcasts.  Tony Pollard got his work done early scoring both of his touchdowns before the half.  On the day, he was quite the roller coaster as 5 of his carries went for negative yards or no gain but only needed three carries to get 40 of his 42 total yards on the day.  Ezekiel Elliott came alive in the second half, getting the go-ahead touchdown.  Pollard had more work in the first half if you include the passing work with the rushing plays, but Elliott ended the game outworking him as Pollard only saw one touch in the fourth quarter to Elliott’s six.  I would imagine this was due to it being a no-huddle hurry-up offense restricting substitutions.  There was one drive where Dallas called 10 rushing plays in a row that got them down to inside the 5 but failed to punch it in turning it over on downs.  That series featured three Pollard rushes in a row sandwiched in between 7 Elliott rushes.  Pollard now has 10 touchdowns in his last six games (more than his past seasons combined).  Elliott has scored a touchdown in each of his last six games.



Wide Receiver/Tight End


CeeDee Lamb: 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 33 Yards
Dalton Schultz: 10 Targets, 6 Receptions, 87 Yards
Noah Brown: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 85 Yards
Michael Gallup: 6 Targets, 2 Receptions, 40 Yards


The Cowboys seemed to unlock a cheat code for CeeDee Lamb last week putting him in motion constantly and having him erupt as a result.  I didn’t see much of that go on in this game and I didn’t see much of Lamb in the stat sheet either.  Not getting open and forcing tight windows for Prescott to hit was the theme for all receivers today.  Lamb salvaged a bit with his volume in PPR but not with the yards.  The Texans lost one of their starting cornerbacks towards the end of the first half and yet the problems remained for Dallas.  I don’t know if they just weren’t as prepared or if Houston just came into this matchup fired up.

The hero of the first half was Noah Brown who caught a 51-yard absolute bomb at the start of the second quarter.  He would have another similar catch on the final drive of the game, both catches brought Dallas into the red zone setting up scores.  He had some crazy catches this game and was also the target of one of the two interceptions.  The other hero was Dalton Schultz who came alive at the end of the game catching three passes for 51 yards on the final drive of the game alone.  He almost caught a touchdown but dropped it on his way to bring it in for a reception.  Michael Gallup also almost had a touchdown reception on that final drive but was knocked out on contact before he could get the second foot down.


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