TEXANS, COWBOYS EACH HAVE 2-GAME LEAD WITH 3 TO PLAY
Sunday was an important one for both Texas National Football League franchises. The Houston Texans just needed to beat the Indianapolis Colts at home to clinch a playoff berth while the Cowboys needed a victory to widen their hold on their division. An unbelievable performance by a wide receiver highlighted both contests played in the Lone Star State, with one helping his team’s playoff position and the other putting off what should be the inevitable in another week. What I’m getting at is that the Cowboys needed a final fluke play in overtime to defeat the defending world champion Philadelphia Eagles 29-23 while the Houston Texans were victimized 24-21 by the surging Indianapolis Colts and their passing tandem of quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. The Cowboys made owner Jerry Jones look like a genius for making a deal to obtain veteran wide receiver Amari Cooper last month, who had one of the best games of his career when he caught three touchdown passes of 15, 28 and 75-yard—all in the fourth quarter and the overtime period–and finished with 217 yards on 10 catches. Cooper’s big day was complemented by running back Ezekiel Elliott who had 192 yards from scrimmage on 40 touches which include 28 carries for 113 yards and 12 catches for 79 yards. This offensive display was orchestrated by third-year quarterback Dak Prescott, who chalked up 576 yards of total offense, the most since the Cowboys put up 578 yards against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. Prescott connected on career highs of 42 completions in 54 attempts for 455 yards. He engineered a 75-yard drive after the Cowboys won the coin flip in the overtime period and never gave the Eagles the football. Cooper had key catches in the overtime to keep that drive alive and capped it with his 15-yard game-winning reception after the ball was tipped into the air by Eagles’ defensive back Rasul Douglas and was grabbed by Cooper for the game-winning touchdown. And not to be forgotten was the Dallas franchise-record 62-yard field goal by first-year kicker Brett Maher as time expired in the first half. He had two other three-pointers in the victory. Luck didn’t need much luck as his skill in finding Colt receivers befuddled the Texans’ defense which has lost four of the last five games played by these two teams in NRG Stadium. In the two games played by Houston and Indianapolis this season, Luck has thrown for 863 yards and six touchdowns. Houston’s NFL-best nine-game winning streak came to a screeching halt, mainly because their brilliant rushing game went kaput against the Colts, who held the Texans to a paltry 89 yards on 25 carries. They entered the game averaging 140.8 yards per game. They still have a semi-comfortable two-game lead over Indianapolis and Tennessee and need a victory against the Jets Saturday in the Meadowlands to make the playoffs. This week’s game will be followed by a trip to Philadelphia and finish the regular season at home against the unpredictable Jacksonville Jaguars. The Cowboys are in the same boat but have a much tougher game against the Colts in Indianapolis. Dallas has games remaining against Tampa Bay at home and at the New York Giants to finish the regular season. KWICKIES…One of the relatives of Earl Thomas said that the five-time All-Pro safety has been rehabbing ahead of schedule and could possibly be cleared to play in the second-round of the playoffs, providing the Seattle Seahawks become eligible for a wild card in the NFC in three weeks and then win the first playoff game. The 13-0 Newton Eagles are one of six state champions still alive in the 2018 state playoffs. The Eagles have been mowing down opponents by huge margins and will play the semifinal round against East Bernard (13-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in New Caney. The Miami Dolphins scored on a pass reception and double lateral on the last play of the game against the New England Patriots to win 34-33. The 69-yard final play was the longest touchdown to win a game with no time remaining since the 1970 merger. ESPN armchair quarterbacks had a field day Monday morning chastising Patriots head coach Bill Belichick for electing to use tight end Rob Gronkowski as part of the prevent defense. Gronk had the final shot at tackling Kenyan Drake, who ran the final 52 yards for the touchdown, but couldn’t hobble close enough to make the tackle. Longtime closer Lee Smith and smooth-swinging Harold Baines were elected to the baseball Hall of Fame Sunday by the 16-member Today’s Game Era committee Sunday. Former outfielder and major league manager Lou Piniella missed by one vote. The Pittsburgh Steelers hierarchy may have bitten off their nose to save their face by refusing to sign star running back L’Veon Bell without making him the franchise player like Bell requested. The Steelers’ 24-21 loss to the lowly Oakland Raiders Sunday could jeopardize winning the AFC North title and another loss or two could put them out of the wild card race. It seems to me that the last three-straight losses would have been victories if Bell was on the Steelers’ roster. Last weekend didn’t seem to be a very shiny one for football game officials, or at least in the games that I watched. There were some terrible calls in both the Dallas-Philadelphia and Houston-Indianapolis games. But the worst one involved the Army-Navy game when it took more than 10 minutes just to get a correct spot of the football. I still don’t think they got it right after all the discussions and video replays. JUST BETWEEN US…The Green Bay Packers played and won their first game without Head Coach Mike McCarthy who was unceremoniously fired a week ago. Joe Philbin, who was head coach at Miami a few years ago, took over the reins of the Packers on an interim basis and led the team to an easy 34-20 victory over the fading Atlanta Falcons. But the game was directed on the field by veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw for two touchdowns and set an NFL record for interception-free football. The rumor around those in the know is that McCarthy and Rodgers had many differences in the offensive game plan. McCarthy called the plays and more than occasionally Rodgers changed them. The new head coach will have to get the blessing from Rodgers before the front office hires him, according to the rumors.