The Cincinnati Bengals traveled to Houston to stop a 21 year playoff drought and avenge a loss in last year's playoff game, but it was deja vu for Cincinnati who lost 19-13 on Saturday.
Andy Dalton was nonexistent as he finished with 127 yards and had one interception and failed to get the ball to A.J. Green once during the first half. With the loss Marvin Lewis is now 0-4 in the playoffs as head coach of the Bengals. The Texans will now advance to play at New England.
Both offenses opened the game with sluggish starts as they each went three and out to start the game.
The Texans started their second drive at their own five yard line, but got some big chunks from Arian Foster (17 yards), Owen Daniels (16 yards) and Keshawn Martin (16 yards). It looked as though the Texans would get inside the red zone, but Foster was ruled out of bounds two yards short of a first down and the Bengals defense would hold Houston to a 48-yard field goal.
Cincinnati followed with a drive that started with a big run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis for 29 yards, but things went down hill for the Bengals quickly. After a three yard run by Dalton, Green-Ellis lost six yards on screen and then Dalton was taken down by the NFL leader in sacks, J.J. Watt, for a nine yard loss.
Houston answered by marching the ball down field and looked as if they were going to take it in the endzone. With a first and ten from the Bengals 16-yard line, the Texans would only make it to the nine and settled for another field goal and a 6-0 lead.
Cincinnati's next offensive series nearly ended in a turnover as Dalton attempted to go deep to Marvin Jones, but the ball was nearly picked off by Kareem Jackson. There would be an interception, but it would give the Bengals a 7-6 lead as Leon Hall picked off Matt Schaub and returned it 21 yards for the score. The interception for a touchdown was Hall's second in three weeks and it also marked the fourth straight game in which a Bengals player found the endzone.
Unshaken, the Texans responded with another long drive that would get to the Bengals four yard line. On third down and goal, Schaub threw a pass intended for Andre Johnson, but the ball went off the finger tips of Johnson in the endzone. That forced the Texans into another field goal that returned the lead to Houston at 9-7.
Cincinnati finally crossed the 50-yard line on its next drive, but the Texans defense stifled the Bengals at the 47 forcing another appearance by punter Kevin Huber. Houston moved the ball on the final drive of the second half into Cincinnati territory, but were stopped short on a fourth down and the Bengals took a knee and a two point deficit into halftime.
Cincinnati opened the second half by losing a yard and then were called for kick catch interference to set the Texans up at midfield. Six plays later Foster punched it in from one yard out and the Texans extended their lead to 16-7.
Green would finally get into the Bengals offensive scheme on the ensuing drive as he made his first catch for five yards. Green then added a 45 yard reception and a seven yard catch to get down to the Houston 16. That led to a Josh Brown 34 yard field goal to cut the lead to 16-10.
The Bengals held the Texans to a punt on the next drive, but Dalton gave the ball right back as he was intercepted by former Bengal Jonathan Joseph. Houston turned that mistake into another three points to push the lead back to nine. Cincinnati responded with another Brown field goal to make it a 19-13 game with 9:03 left to play.
After a punt by Houston, the Bengals made it down to the Texans 36-yard line, but Jones was tackled three yards short as Cincinnati was forced to go for it on fourth down. The Bengals had a chance to get the ball back, but Schaub completed a six yard pass on third and two to seal the victory.
Passing: CIN-Dalton (14-30, 127 yards, INT) HOU-Schaub (29-38, 262 yards, INT)
Rushing: CIN-Green-Ellis (11 carries, 63 yards) HOU-Foster (32 carries, 140 yards, TD)
Receiving: CIN-Green (5 catches, 80 yards) HOU-Daniels (9 catches, 91 yards)
Tackles: CIN-Rey Maualuga/Reggie Nelson (10) HOU-Watt (5 tackles, sack)/Joseph (5 tackles, INT)
Turnovers: CIN-1 HOU-1
Sacks for: CIN-0 HOU-2
Time of possession: CIN-21:11 HOU-38:49