NFL Wildcard: Texans Shoot Down The Bengals

The Houston Texans defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in a game of firsts.

Nash Herringtonby Nash Herrington

Cincinnati Bengals  10

Houston Texans  31

Before the kickoff of this #3 vs #6 match-up, the story of the game was two firsts; the first playoff appearance in Texans franchise history, and the first time in the Superbowl era that two rookie starters at quarterback faced off in a playoff game.  By the end of the day though, a rookie defensive end and an all pro running back had stole the headlines.  

Though both quarterbacks were rookies, each played different roles for their teams.  Being the starting QB since the beginning of the season, Bengals rookie Andy Dalton was asked to take control of his team's offense completing 27/42 passes for 257 yards but constant pressure by the Texans defense had Dalton under duress all game, sacking him four times while forcing three interceptions.  Texans QB T.J. Yates began the season #3 on the depth chart and didn't get his first NFL start until week 13, but the Texans offense relied so heavily on the run that Yates only needed to be a game manager for his team going 11/20 for 159 yards and a touchdown.

The Bengals looked good early, scoring first on a one yard run by Cedric Benson (7 carries, 14 yards).  But a second quarter interception returned for a touchdown by Texans defensive end J.J. Watt swung the momentum and Cincinnati was never able to recover.

Third year Houston running back Arian Foster led all rushers with 153 yards on 24 rushes and added two touchdowns on the ground as the Texans were able to dictate tempo for most of the game.  Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson, who had been hampered all season with hamstring injuries, caught five passes for 90 yards including a 40 yard touchdown.  The Texans defense was led by rookie DE J.J. Watt who consistently harassed Andy Dalton while tallying two tackles and a sack, Watt had the play of the game as he returned a leaping interception 29 yards for a touchdown that would prove to be a game changer as well as the winning score.

This win is the first playoff win for a Houston franchise since the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) defeated the New York Jets in the 1991 AFC wildcard round.  The Cincinnati Bengals have scored first in four consecutive playoff games dating back to 1990, all four of those games ended in losses.

With the win, the Texans advance to face the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday at 1pm ET in Baltimore.  Both teams match-up well as each relies heavily on the run and a dominant defense.

Offensive Player of the Game
Arian Foster (Houston, RB) – 24 carries, 154 yards, 2 TD
Foster started out slow, but once he got into a rhythm the Bengals couldn't contain him.

Defensive Player of the Game
J.J. Watt (Houston, DE) – 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 TD
3-4 defensive ends don't usually get big statistics, but Watt was dominant leading the Texans' D.