HOUSTON -- Desperate teams are dangerous teams.
We've seen over and over, not just in the NFL, but in all sports. And we've definitely seen it with the Dallas Cowboys in recent history. There was certainly no exception to that rule on Sunday down in Houston.
|Tight end Jason Witten helps Roy Williams celebrate his second touchdown on the day. (AP)|
There's a big difference. Like a 27-13 difference. That's why seeing the Cowboys come into Reliant Stadium on Sunday and hand the Texans this 14-point loss, which was actually closer than the game itself, shouldn't come as a huge surprise.
All week we heard comparisons to last year's upset over the Saints, who were 13-0 and looking unbeatable. The Cowboys went into that game after losing two straight, hearing about their December woes again and slimming playoff chances.
But the Cowboys were determined that day. With a precise game plan and even better execution, they went into a hostile environment and took care of business. For that day the Cowboys were better than the Saints.
OK, so let's be clear now. The Texans are certainly not last year's Saints, although you had to convince Houston fans otherwise before the game.
And another thing, Reliant Stadium is definitely not the Superdome. So the comparisons weren't exact.
But what was the same was the determination.
"We just had to have this win, it was a must," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "We went in here with a great game plan and we just executed it. We saw today that if we play our game we can go beat anyone, anywhere."
Earlier in the week, Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said his team was in an "emergency" situation and needed to "call 9-1-1."
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Whether it was that sense of urgency, or the players-only meeting called last week or just the fact the Cowboys outplayed and out-executed the Texans, either way you get a decisive win.
"I thought we played with a great balance today," said linebacker Bradie James. "We didn't hit the panic button. I mean, if you start 0-7, then start to panic. We didn't have panic, but we just went out with an attitude that we have to win this game. No excuses. Some of the players say we were desperate. And maybe we were. But I think we were more determined than anything."
And the Cowboys were determined to show a complete game, with all three phases in sync for the first time this season. That was the case Sunday, as the offense kept the Texans on their heels with a balanced attack.
The Cowboys ran the ball for just 101 yards, but it was enough to set up the pass. That's all Tony Romo needed. The Cowboys quarterback was 23 of 30 for 284 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 127.6.
"We had a really good game plan and we stuck to it," Romo said. "That's what happens when you can run the ball and pick up some first downs. Even if you don't have a lot of long runs, just being able to move the ball will open so many other things."
Those "other things" included a huge day for Roy Williams, who recorded just his second 100-yard game since joining the Cowboys in 2008. Williams' 117 receiving yards were the most of his Cowboys career, to go along with two touchdowns, including a game-clinching 63-yarder in the fourth quarter.
|The offense kept the Texans off-balance, spreading the ball around all day long. The defense picked up four sacks and two turnovers, while the special teams was solid, including a big field goal by David Buehler before the half.|
|By Nick Eatman|
|The offensive line struggled for the second consecutive game. Unlike last week's win, Matt Schaub held onto the ball too long and erred on an overthrown pass to a hobbled Andre Johnson that resulted in an INT. The young Texans secondary allowed at least 280 passing yards for the third straight week.|
|By Matt Rybaltowski|
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"I thought Roy had a great game for us," head coach Wade Phillips said. "He's been playing well. And we have a lot of weapons on offense. But today was his turn."
Defensively, the Cowboys bounced back from a dismal effort against Chicago. Not only did they keep the Texans passing game in check, holding Andre Johnson to just four catches for 64 yards, but added sacks and turnovers into the equation.
In the first two games, the Cowboys had yet to force a turnover and had just two sacks. After three games now, the Cowboys have forced two turnovers and have a total of six sacks. Four of those sacks are by DeMarcus Ware, who added three on Sunday.
"We brought the heat today," cornerback Mike Jenkins said. "We didn't let them get into a rhythm. I think adding a lot of pressure was the difference today. We got to play our game and they didn't play theirs."
To top it off, the Cowboys were also complete on special teams, thanks in large part to kicker David Buehler, whose future was in question all week after he was just 2 of 4 with key misses in each of the first two games.
Buehler responded Sunday with a 49-yard field goal before halftime, and then another 40-yard kick in the fourth quarter.
All in all, the Cowboys simply knew they had to win. Therefore, it's probably not a coincidence the Cowboys turned out their best performance of this young season as they head into the bye week.
"When your backs are against the wall, good teams respond," said Ware. "I think we're a good team. We know we what we can do. But we just had to win. We couldn't go into the bye week at 0-3. So we put it all on the line for this game to win. And that's what we did."
And who says desperate is a bad thing?