The Houston Texans have dug themselves a nice hole in the playoff dropping from the number 1 seed to the number 3 seed due to a loss last Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub knew he had to have a successful game, if he not only wanted to win and move on next week, but silence the critics as well.
The offense started off sluggish as they failed to execute effectively in the end zone and settle for a Shayne Graham 48 yard field goal. The Texans struck first for the 3-0 lead over the Bengals in the first quarter at Reliant Stadium, in front of a noisy, excited sold out crowd.
The Texans defense made it extremely difficult for young Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to convert on play and create scoring drives. It didn't help that potential defense player of the year JJ Watt sacked Dalton for a 9 yard loss either.
The Texans continued to run behind following the lead of powerful running back Arian Foster, who shredded through the Bengals defense like no tomorrow. Again the Texans settled for a field goal that extended their lead 6-0 in the second quarter.
In the next drive the Texans looked to increase their lead as Foster took the hand off from Schaub for the four yard gain before being brought down by Terrance Newman. Schaub drops back looking for his target, and was intercepted by the Bengals Leon Hall who returned it for the touchdown. Extra point was good and the Bengals took the 7-6 lead over the Texans.
That would be the only interception on the day for Schaub.
Later Foster would bust out of the line for a huge burst up the middle for the 13 yard gain, that set the crowd on their feet. Foster then ran for a 15 yard gain before Schaub began to spread the offense out more. Schaub connected with Owen Daniels for a 7 yard strike.
Graham connected on a 22 yard field goal for the 9-7 lead at halftime.
The Texans entered the third quarter with a little more flare and sense of urgency after Andre Johnson caught a pass for a 22 yard gain. Foster ran in the 1 yard touchdown for the 16-7 lead.
Andy Dalton decided to get his offense going as well, connected with wide receiver AJ Green blew past Johnathan Joesph for a 45 yard gain. Bengals could know advance into the end zone past the Texans defense and ultimately settled for a field goal. Bengals still trailed the Texans 16-10.
Houston had struggled on third downs lately. But this time, the Texans didn't allow the Bengals convert a third down on nine attempts in the game.
Texans offense settled for another Graham field goal that extended their lead 19-10 in the fourth quarter.
Bengals had trouble moving the ball against the tough Texans defense, and had an opportunity to score a touchdown. Dalton throw a spectacular throw to AJ Green in the end zone, but the ball was just inches out of reach for Green. They decided to settle for a field goal and still trailed 19-13.
The Texans held on for the victory which was even sweeter for Matt Schaub who missed the playoffs last season due to a foot injury. "Cincinnati is a great team. I made a turnover and gave them points. We just had to rally around each other and we did that. It's never easy."
Scahub finished 29/38 with 262 yards and 1 interception. Arian Foster had an impressive MVP type performance, finishing with 140 yards on 32 carries and 1 TD.
"We like to run the ball and play good defense. It only takes one week to turn things around in the NFL, and we did that," said Foster. "We controlled the line of scrimmage, and any time we do that it's going to be hard to beat us."
Andy Dalton who has been here before finished, 14/30 for 127 yards and 1 interception. Better than the 3 interceptions he threw last year against this same team and TJ Yates.
"The offense didn't play as well as it could have. You can always look back and say, 'What if?' " said Dalton.
The Texans have a tough test next week as they take their show on the road to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots. A team that destroyed on Monday night back on December 10th.
An opportunity for the Texans to not only get their revenge against the Pats, but show the league that they are for real, and hungry for a Super Bowl title.