Texans dispose of toothless Bengals in NFL wild-card game
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt pressures Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton during their AFC wild-card game at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Tex., Jan. 5, 2013. (TIM SHARP/Reuters)
There was not much of a problem for Houston.
Not this day.
Controlling the ball and the clock on the accuracy of quarterback Matt Schaub’s right arm and the legs of running back Arian Foster, the Houston Texans bested the Cincinnati Bengals for the second consecutive year in their wild-card game, this time beating them by a 19-13 margin.
The final score was flattering to a Bengals team that didn’t show up in the first half, yawned a few times in the third quarter and failed to come through with a touchdown on their best drive in the fourth.
The biggest winners this day were the New England Patriots, who watching at home with their feet up, must be thinking ‘Is this all you’ve got?’
With the win, the Texans move on to Boston and they’ll require a superior effort there if they have any intention of upsetting the Pats.
The game featured just one offensive touchdown — a one-yard plunge by Foster in the third quarter — but thanks to a killer defence and a Bengals offence that resembled the Bungles of old, it was more than enough to provide the downtrodden Texans with the win.
Houston was very much under the gun entering the game having lost three of its last four to crash from being the AFC’s top seed to No. 3.
Even though they were underwhelming in the red zone — they converted just one of four opportunities into touchdowns — they are the team that is moving on to New England.
Houston coach Gary Kubiak, naturally enough, was full of praise for his troops for weathering the pre-game criticism and coming through in the clutch.
“I think these guys have stayed the course the whole way,” Kubiak said. “They’ve been through a tough month and that’s a part of the National Football League.
“The reason we won today is because nobody on this football team ever panics. They battled and they understand there are going to be highs and lows and that’s why they were able to stand up to this challenge today. We played a great football team. We had to be patient, we had to battle and we had to play our type of game.
“I’m just very, very proud of our organization today.”
On the day, Schaub played it safe with his receivers running short routes and it paid off. He was good on 29 of 38 passes for 262 yards in chalking up his first playoff win in as many attempts.
“It’s exciting to do it in front of our home crowd after the way things have gone the last month, to right the ship and come away with a victory,” Schaub said. “But it wasn’t pretty.”
On that we can all agree.
Foster, meanwhile, ground out 140 yards on 32 carries.
Overall the Texans had the ball for 38:49 compared to just 21:11 for Cincinnati.
The Andy Dalton-led Bengals had next to nothing going offensively and their lone touchdown came courtesy of Leon Hall’s pick-six of Schaub in the first half. On the day, Dalton was 14-for-30 for 127 yards.
On third down conversions, Dalton and the Bengals were a miserable 0-for-9.
Wade Phillips, take a bow.
“We were down to our fourth inside linebacker but our guys came in and stepped up,” Wade, the Texans defensive co-ordinator, said. “They played well. I was pleased that they did not get a touchdown on us defensively. That was a big key for us.
“We stopped a team that was on a roll (winners of seven of their last eight games) coming in here and played well offensively. I thought we did a heck of a job.”
The same could not be said of the Bengals, who were pushed up and down the field.
Hall’s interception was Schaub’s lone mistake and the Bengals had no answer for Foster.
“They played better than we did for sure,” Hall said. “We did leave some plays out there in every aspect of the game.
“Obviously we didn’t play good enough because our season is over now.”
But not the Texans’, who hope to give a more inspired effort than the 42-14 beatdown they received courtesy of the Patriots on Dec. 10.
“It’s a one-game season,” Schaub said of next Sunday’s game. “What we learned and the situations we were in a month ago, we can definitely pull from that.
“We’ve been down that road. We know what it takes to win and that’s play good road football. We didn’t do that the last time we played up there.”