The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t have asked for a better start against the Houston Texans. Powered by Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, the offense marched 76 yards on the game’s initial drive to jump out to a 7-0 lead.
After getting off to grotesque starts in consecutive weeks against inferior opponent in the Giants and Colts, Sunday’s opening drive was a sight for sore eyes among fans. Even better? The defense followed the offense’s lead by forcing the Davis Mills-led Texans to go three and out on the ensuing drive.
Exactly what the doctor ordered … though Dallas’ momentum was short-lived after electrifying rookie KaVontae Turpin muffed the punt after signaling for a fair catch. Desperate for any semblance of a spark as a whopping17.5-point underdog, Turpin gave the Texans exactly that.
Gifted with a short field, Dameon Pierce nodded up the score with a goal line touchdown after a Cowboy offsides gave Houston 1st and goal from the one.
Cowboys’ KaVontae Turpin’s muffed punt leads to Texans touchdown.
Turpin’s been a godsend for the Cowboys’ special teams. After winning the job during training camp and preseason, the TCU product is averaging 12.4 yards per punt return — which ranks seventh among specialists who’ve logged at least 10 returns — and an impressive 23.5 yards on kickoffs.
Long story short, Turpin has hardly put a foot wrong as Dallas’ lead return man. However, a simple lapse in concentration gave an anemic Texans team a sign of life, and his team suffered the consequence. Incredibly, this marked Houston’s first first quarter touchdown since Week 9 against the Eagles.
Over the last month of action, Lovie Smith’s side have compiled a total of three (!) points in the first quarter, per ESPN Stats and Info.
No, Turpin’s job isn’t in jeopardy. It would likely take another muff or two for that to even be considered. With a largely adversity-free rookie campaign up until Sunday, though, this untimely blunder better give the 26-year-old a needed wake-up call with the playoffs on the horizon.
As much as he’s capable of making defenders miss in the open field, the most important part of being a punt returner is fielding the punt. Can’t do anything without the ball.
Luckily for Turpin, the Cowboys were in a similar position in each of their previous two games, so they’re familiar with overcoming slow starts against weaker opponents. Fittingly, they responded to Houston taking a 10-7 lead with (another) Tony Pollard touchdown.
Of course, they never should’ve been playing from behind in the first place.