Backup quarterbacks sloppy as Texans beat Cowboys 14-6
By JORDAN GODWIN
HOUSTON (AP) Trying to make a strong impression for a chance of playing in the NFL, Houston Texans rookie running back Terry Swanson said he saw an opening and never looked back.
Swanson had a 37-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to lift the Texans to a 14-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys in their preseason finale Thursday night.
The undrafted rookie running back out of Toledo, who served as an understudy to the Chiefs' Kareem Hunt in college, found a hole with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to put the Texans up two scores. Swanson finished with 69 yards on 17 carries.
"It's a dream come true to score my first NFL touchdown like that," he said.
"I wanted to have an opportunity to show what I can do. The odds are against you being an undrafted free agent, but for something like that to happen, puts you at better odds."
Both teams rested their starters.
Houston took a 7-3 lead in the first quarter after third-round pick safety Justin Reid intercepted Cooper Rush's pass to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Alfred Blue. Blue, competing for the backup job behind Lamar Miller, rushed for 18 yards on four carries, while Troymaine Pope rushed for 21 yards on five carries.
The Cowboys scored on two field goals from backup kicker Brett Maher, one on their opening drive from 57 yards and one late in the fourth quarter from 41.
Texans backup quarterback Brandon Weeden started and went 3 for 9 for 22 yards. Behind Weeden, Joe Webb went 11 for 18 for 136 yards.
"We didn't do much offensively," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "I wouldn't say it was a stellar offensive night. I thought the effort was good, but it just wasn't great, offensively, all night."
With the offense struggling, O'Brien got plenty of film on his punters, engaged in a tight position battle. Veteran punter Shane Lechler and rookie Trevor Daniel, went back and forth, with Lechler punting five times for 212 yards (42.4 average) and Daniel punting four times for 163 yards (40.8).
After Daniel excelled in the first half, he punted one out of bounds that went just 30 yards. Lechler followed with a booming 61-yard punt to the Dallas 20-yard line.
"Both guys have really done well," O'Brien said. "Shane Lechler, in my opinion, is a Hall of Famer punter. He's competed at a really high level. And Trevor Daniel is a really good young punter. Both guys have done a really good job."
Lechler, who was very complimentary of Daniel's talent and work ethic, said regardless of the Texans' decision, he has no plans of retiring this season.
"I know one thing - I fought as hard as I could every day," Lechler said. "Every time we went out there and punted against each other, that was a game day for me. I have no regrets."
For Dallas, Rush played the entire first half and some of the third quarter, finishing 14 of 25 for 83 yards and two interceptions. Behind Rush, Mike White went 13 for 21 for 118 yards.
After another lackluster performance, Rush was asked if he was concerned Dallas might look elsewhere for a backup quarterback.
"I don't even worry about that," Rush said. "It's not my job to worry about it. It would be a waste of time on my part to think about stuff like that."
The Cowboys finished their preseason winless for the first time since 2014 when they went 12-4 in the regular season.
"Certainly whenever you go out there, you want to win and we're competing to win," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "But that doesn't override some of the other objectives that we have."
The two Texas teams will have a regular-season rematch in Houston in Week 5 on "Sunday Night Football." Dallas leads the series 3-1 and has won the past three meetings since the Texans won their first-ever matchup in their inaugural game in 2002.
Cowboys starting quarterback Dak Prescott served as a team captain during the coin toss, even wearing his helmet. Before kickoff, however, Prescott put his helmet away and immediately exchanged his cleats for sneakers to settle in as a sideline spectator.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who didn't play during the preseason, said at halftime he's excited to get back on the field.
"Camp is long, the preseason is long, but there is nothing like that first game when the lights come on for real," Elliott said.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson also wore sneakers, even fashioning a makeshift bandanna out of a towel. While many Texans starters wore baseball caps on the sideline, nose tackle D.J. Reader stood out with a gray bucket hat.
No players from the Cowboys or the Texans kneeled during the national anthem.
MANCZ GETS EXTENSION
The Texans signed starting center Greg Mancz to a two-year contract extension on Thursday. Mancz, an undrafted free agent out of Toledo in 2015, played 10 games, starting seven, in 2017. Houston used a second-round tender on Mancz in the offseason and will pay him $1.907 million this season.
GREGORY NOT WITH TEAM
Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory spent Thursday in Chicago meeting with NFL officials to discuss his place in the league's substance-abuse program and his treatment plan, all "part of the process" as Garrett said before the game. Last Sunday, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he anticipates Gregory will be available for the season opener.
Cowboys: Backup strong safety Kavon Frazier, who did not play in the game, wore a sling on his left arm on the sideline to support his left shoulder that popped out of socket against Arizona. Garrett said it was just a precaution.
Cowboys (0-4): open their season at the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 9.
Texans (3-1): visit the New England Patriots for their season opener on Sept. 9.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Updated August 31, 2018