FRISCO, Texas – Should the Cowboys have gone for it on fourth down in overtime?
That's the prevailing narrative in the fallout from Sunday's 19-16 loss at Houston after the Texans received the Cowboys' punt, drove 72 yards and kicked the deciding 36-yard field goal at NRG Stadium.
Upon reviewing the tape Monday, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett stood by his decision to punt on a long fourth-and-1 from the Texans' 42-yard line.
"I think the reasoning is the same," he said. "We've been aggressive going for it on fourth down. That's been a good thing for us. But not every fourth-down situation is the same. It was a long 1. I was standing right there.
"It just made sense to us, to me at that time, to go ahead and play field position, give (punter) Chris Jones a chance to trap them on the 10-yard line (and) let's go play defense. Physically over the course of the game, we were really wearing them out. Our defensive line was getting to their runner, was getting to the quarterback. They weren't really effective driving the ball or scoring points. We just felt like at that point, that's the way we wanted to play it."
In addition to the down and distance – really closer to fourth-and-2 than fourth-and-1 – Garrett pointed out that the Texans' defense had been keying on star running back Ezekiel Elliott all night. Houston stopped Elliott for no gain on the previous play.
"At times we blocked it well in the running game, and we protected well against them," Garrett said. "But for the most part, too much during the ballgame they were able to kind of find a gap and meet Zeke in the backfield. I think he had 20 carries in the game and I think nine of them were for zero or minus yards.
"Now, he had some other good runs in the game and sometimes that's a byproduct of what they do. Maybe they are jumping out of a gap, and you can take advantage of it. But they were able to disrupt with their line movement, and we didn't run the ball consistently well enough in the game as a result."
Without second-guessing his head coach, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones wondered aloud after the game to reporters about the alternative option to be aggressive in that situation.
Garrett said he discussed his fourth-down call with Jones on Monday – part of their normal after-game discussion each week.
"We talked about the thought process behind that," Garrett said, "and why you make a decision like that based on how we were playing on defense in particular and what the details of the circumstances were."
Garrett said he's hopeful starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie will be ready to return this week after being held out in the second half against Houston with a bothersome ankle.
"Chido's a good football player and he was battling, trying to fight through it, unfortunately wasn't able to finish," Garrett said. "Hopefully he'll be ready to go this week. We'll see how he's able to practice."
Linebacker Joe Thomas exited during the game with a foot injury, and Garrett indicated Thomas will miss some time.
"Didn't look great last night. Didn't look great today," Garrett said. "We'll take him day by day but don't anticipate him being up and ready to go here in the near future."
The Cowboys have played the last two games without defensive captain Sean Lee, who's on a tentative week-to-week timetable to return.