For the second consecutive year, the Cincinnati Bengals traveled to Houston to take on the Houston Texans to kick off the 2013 NFL playoff season. The Texans received the kickoff and started at their 16. After three plays, they punted and the after three plays, the Bengals punted the ball right back to the Texans. With 12 minutes to go in the first quarter, the Texans started at their five-yard line. Some good running by running back Arian Foster and an 18-yard completion to tight end Owen Daniels gave them a first down at the 42. From the 42, quarterback Matt Schaub completed a pass to Foster for eight yards and wide receiver Keshawn Martin took an end around for 18 more to put the ball at the Bengal 38. The drive was halted by the Bengal defense at the 30 and kicker Shayne Graham was called on for a 48-yard attempt. The kick was good and the Texans had an early 3-0 lead.
Aside from a 29-yard run by running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Bengals did nothing with the ball as the Texans brought the pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton. After four plays, the Bengals punted again and the Texans took over at their 31. Short completions to Foster and Daniels and a 19-yard catch by wide receiver Andre Johnson moved the ball to the Bengal 40. Three straight runs by Foster and a sneak by Schaub netted a first down at the 16. Once again, the Bengal defense stiffened and the drive stalled at the nine. Graham kicked a 27-yard field goal and the score was now 6-0 with 13 minutes to go in the second quarter.
Four more offensive plays for the Bengals meant another punt and the Texans started at their 12. On third and three from the 19, Schaub looked to his left and his pass intended for fullback James Casey was picked off and returned for a touchdown by cornerback Leon Hall. Kicker Josh Brown made the point after and the Bengals now led 7-6 with a little over nine minutes to go in the second quarter.
Foster decided to put the Texans on his back on the next drive and they rode him on a 13 play, 76-yard drive. Unfortunately for the Texans, they didn’t find the end zone and they had to settle for another field goal attempt. This one came from 22 yards and it was good. That put the Texans up 9-7 with two minutes to go in the first half. Try as they might, the Bengals couldn’t get going and punted again. The Texans got the ball back at their 11 with a minute to go. They got as far as the Bengal 41 and on fourth and four, Schaub looked for Daniels, but the pass was knocked away by cornerback Adam Jones. At halftime, the stats were very one-sided. The Texans had 250 total yards and the Bengals had 53. To add insult to injury, the Bengals had minus seven yards passing. Wide receiver A.J. Green was held without a catch and the Bengals were lucky to find themselves down by only two points.
More of the same for the Bengals in the second half. Three plays netted minus one yard and punter Kevin Huber came on and punted the ball away again. The Bengals were flagged for fair catch interference on the punt and that gave the Texans the ball at their 49. Two runs and an 11-yard pass to Foster gave them a first down at the Bengal 27. Schaub then hit Johnson in stride for a gain of 22. Two plays later, Foster took it in for a Texan touchdown. Graham made the point after and the Texans increased the lead to 16-7.
Starting at their 20, the Bengals finally realized they needed to get the ball to Green. On first down, Dalton hit Green for five yards. He found him open two more times for gains of seven and 45 yards. They finally found themselves in Texan territory. However, they would not find the end zone this time. On third and three from the 16, Dalton’s pass was incomplete. Brown came on and made his 34-yard field goal attempt and the lead was cut to 16-10 with eight minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Texans started at their 20 and got as far as midfield when they were faced with a fourth and one. They decided to punt and the Bengals took over at their 11. On second and seven from the 24, Dalton looked for Green again. This time, Green wasn’t looking at Dalton and the pass was picked off at the 40 by cornerback Johnathan Joseph. He returned the ball to the 26 and that gave the Texans an excellent chance to increase their lead. A short run by Foster and passes to Daniels and Johnson gave them a first and goal from the nine. But a holding call and more good play by the Bengal defense forced another field goal attempt. This one was from 24 yards and it was good. That made it 19-10 with 14 minutes to go in the game.
A good kickoff return by return man Brandon Tate set the Bengals up at their 39. Some good runs by Green-Ellis and and an eight-yard pass to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins moved them to the Texan 39. On fourth and one, Green-Ellis powered his way up the middle for a first down. The drive would stall at the 29 and Brown made his 48-yard attempt to make it 19-13 with nine minutes to go in the game.
The Texans went three and out and the Bengals had one last shot to take the lead. Starting at their 20, Dalton found Green for 16 yards and wide receiver Marvin Jones for 15 more. Some quick running by Green-Ellis got them to the Houston 35. On third and 11 from the 36, Green got behind the defense and Dalton put up a deep ball for him that was just out of his reach. That made it fourth and 11 from the 35. Instead of throwing the ball 11 yards down-field, Dalton dumped a short pass to Jones. He caught it and was brought down three yards short of a first down. The Texans took over, got the one first down they needed and ran out the clock. Final Score: Texans 19 Bengals 13.
For the Bengals, Andy Dalton was pressured all day and forced many bad throws. He completed 14 of 30 for 127 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. A.J. Green led the Bengals with five catches for 80 yards. All those catches came in the second half. BenJarvus Green-Ellis led the team in rushing with 63 yards on 11 carries. All totaled, the Bengals had 80 yards on 16 carries. Defensively, safety Reggie Nelson led the team with nine solo tackles and two tackles for a loss. The Bengals led the league in sacks, but they hardly ever got to Schaub and registered zero sacks in this game.
For the Texans, Matt Schaub completed 29 of 38 for 262 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Owen Daniels led all receivers with nine catches for 91 yards. When it came to running the ball, Arian Foster was the workhorse as he racked up 140 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown. As a team, the Texans had 158 rushing yards on 39 carries. Foster also had eight catches for 34 yards. Defensively, J.J. Watt led the team with five solo tackles, a sack, two tackles for a loss and two passes defensed.
Up next for the Texans is a trip back to New England to face the Patriots. They went to New England in week 14 and the Patriots came away with a dominant 42-14 blowout. The Texans need to play much better this time if they want to advance to the AFC Championship game. I’ll be back tomorrow morning for a recap of the Vikings-Packers game which is going on as I type this. Until then, take it easy.