IRVING, Texas - So far it appears as if the NFL likes to give the Houston Texans a little extra time to get ready for games against the in-state rival Cowboys. The first time the teams played, the Texans had a couple of years to get ready, ultimately beating the Cowboys, 19-10, back in September of 2002 when playing the first game of their existence. Now the Texans will have had two weeks to prepare for the Cowboys after a bye this past week. Back at Texas Stadium this time, the Cowboys won't have to deal with a rowdy, franchise-opening crowd at a new stadium and all the optimism surrounding an expansion team, particularly considering the Texans have won just 18 games in the four seasons since that Sunday night in Houston four years ago.
New Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is doing his level best to get his pieces in place. He's got a quarterback fans wanted to dump, David Carr, playing the best football of his career, a running back with experience in the offense and a highly-touted rookie defensive end who looks ready to come out of his shell. Sounds like a good place to start from.
But still, the Texans are dead-last in the NFL in total defense, 29th overall on offense, and have won just one game, that coming over the currently-hapless Dolphins, 17-15, two weeks ago. So while Texans fans have a few things to be excited about at the moment, the team is still a long way from being competitive. And that's a good thing to hear for the Cowboys, who could use a feel-good game after Sunday's disappointing loss in Philadelphia.
- Maybe Carr has finally gotten used to the fact that he'll never have much protection. Despite having been sacked 15 times through four games, seventh-most in the league, Carr has the NFL's best passer rating at 108.9. He has thrown seven touchdowns to two interceptions and has run for a score.
- Remember Ron Dayne? He's the guy that broke the Cowboys' back in overtime last year on Thanksgiving while playing for the Broncos, his long run giving way to the game-winning field goal. Well, Dayne hasn't shown quite the same home-run ability through three games with the Texans, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry with a long of 12.
- First-overall pick Mario Williams may have finally gotten that monkey off his back against the Dolphins, registering 1.5 sacks. Still, the North Carolina State product has registered just 10 tackles, seven solos. In case anyone is counting, second-overall pick Reggie Bush leads the league in receptions with 34 and scored his first touchdown Sunday, a game-winning punt return against Tampa Bay.
- Williams isn't the only player to come up small for the Texans' defense. The unit is 30th in the league in points allowed per game (28.3), 25th in rushing defense (139.8), 32nd in passing defense (295.3) and gives up 432 yards per contest.
- Penalties cost the Cowboys Sunday in Philadelphia. The Texans, on the other hand, have done a decent job keeping their fouls at a respectable level. They are fifth in the league in penalties, averaging five per game. They are giving up just 37.5 free yards per game.
Through the first month of the season, a couple of things are obvious about the Texans. They can throw but not run, and have been unable to keep teams out of the end zone. Expect the Cowboys to take few chances defensively, and make Houston beat them on the ground, where the Texans average just 76 yards a game. David Carr has been stellar this season, but as has been the theme of his career, the Texans have trouble protecting him. The Cowboys should be able to get to Carr a few times a possibly create a couple turnovers by rushing just four defenders.
Plain and simple, the Texans aren't good enough at this point to overcome their mistakes. Expect a conservative game plan offensively from Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells as the Cowboys try to limit their own foul-ups from gifting Houston favorable field position. Texans receivers Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds can make plays though, so defensively the Cowboys can't afford the same breakdowns in coverage that occurred against the Eagles.
- Cowboys defensive back Aaron Glenn - Glenn was a Texan for the team's first three seasons (2002-04). One of the team's early stars, Glenn had three interceptions during his stint in Houston, and earned a Pro Bowl spot after the 2002 campaign.
- Cowboys quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer - Palmer was the Texans' first offensive coordinator and coached their three full years. He was fired two games into the 2005 season, an early scapegoat for what would be the worst year in franchise history.
- Texans defensive lineman Thomas Johnson - Not sure if they're calling him "Pepper" in Houston, but Johnson was a favorite of Bill Parcells as a rookie in 2005, earning a roster spot and playing in two games that season. He was let go in the final wave of cuts before the 2006 season began.
- Cowboys defensive back Marcus Coleman - He's not technically on the 53-man roster - yet - but Coleman, who spent the past four seasons playing with the Texans, just completed his four-game suspension for violation of the league's substance-abuse policy. The Cowboys have received a one-week roster exemption, and the 11th-year veteran is eligible to resume practicing with the team on Wednesday without counting against the 53-man roster.
The Cowboys have the NFC's best record all-time (73-57) against AFC teams . . . Houston is one of just seven teams in the league with a winning record against the Cowboys (1-0) . . . A Bill Parcells-coached team has never played the Texans. He was 1-1 against the Oilers . . . The Texans are the only team in the NFL to never intercept a Drew Bledsoe pass, having played him just twice . . . The first game for the Texans franchise was also Roy Williams' first as a professional. He recorded five tackles in the season-opening loss.