Unlike the last time these two teams met, the Houston Texans did not need an 80 yard, two-minute, game-winning drive to seal the deal. Rather, they handily defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in every aspect of the game. Offensively the Texans started out a little slow, defensively they started out well and finished fantastic! While most pundits and talking-heads predicted that the Texans would squeak by the Bengals, or would lose altogether, the Texans had other plans.
Rookie vs. Rookie
This game was one for the record books when it came to the quarterback position. Both Bengals QB Andy Dalton and Texans QB T.J. Yates are rookie quarterbacks. To my knowledge this has not happened more than twice in all of NFL history.
Dalton looked sharp for most of the game. He completed 27 of 42 passes (64%) but made some very costly mistakes as the game progressed. He also used his feet to keep drives alive as he rushed for another 17 yards on three rushes with a long of 15 yards. Altogether Dalton looked like the more seasoned quarterback but because of the Texans defense his day went to hell-in-a-handbasket…but more on that later.
Yates, as it was expected, was more limited in his passing. His 11 of 20 completions does not seem overly impressive but when you consider that he averaged 14.5 yards/pass and had a passing touchdown he seems a bit more impressive. His weapon of choice, WR Andre Johnson, helped contribute to Yates’ success and was the sole receiver with a receiving TD. Most importantly, though, is the fact that Yates protected the ball and did not make any costly mistakes.
Granted, he was sacked twice but he threw no interceptions and did not fumble the ball when under pressure. Additionally, when he came under pressure he got rid of ball and kept his offense on the field. At the end of this game it was Yates who appeared to be the more poised and seasoned player – despite his inexperience.
Defense vs. Defense
Entering this game the Bengals had the seventh ranked defense in the league, you would not have known that at the end of the game. The Bengals allowed the Texans to rush for 153 yards, throw for 159 yards, and put up 31 points (including 14 unanswered points). They sacked Yates twice but only for a net loss of seven yards.
Additionally, they struggled to find an answer for both RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson. Foster took a while to get going but when he did he kept going, and going, and going. His longest rush, a 42-yard rush for a touchdown, was an embarrassment for the Bengals who not only failed to push him out-of-bounds along the sideline but also missed multiple tackles.
Johnson, on the other hand, well he is Andre Johnson. After missing the majority of the season he came into this game with a chip on his shoulder. This was his first playoff game in his nine-year history with the Texans and he was looking to make something of it…and he did! Andre missed a few, what I would call “catchable” passes, but then he lit up the field with some great receptions. His solo touchdown reception was on a 40-yard bomb in which he shook his defender right out of his shoes.
On the other side of the field were the Bulls on Parade, the Texans defense. They looked like a defense that could have manhandled the best of offenses, finishing the day with four sacks for a loss of 33 yards, three interceptions, and a J.J. Watt touchdown off one of those interceptions. The held the Bengals running backs to 59 total yards and did not allow any passing touchdowns.
More importantly, though, is that they did not allow rookie phenom WR A.J. Green to find his rhythm. Green has been an offensive machine for the Bengals this season – accumulating 1,057 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns – but was incapable of putting together a solid performance against the Bulls on Parade. At the end of this game he had a total of five receptions for 47 yards. The Bengals looked to Green to outperform Texans CB Johnathan Joseph but it was not meant to be. Joseph was all over Green throughout this game and picked off a pass intended for him late in the game.
The Bulls on Parade were a machine today. They fired on all cylinders and were a huge contributor to the success of the Texans team. Most impressive is the fact that all three interceptions for the Texans came from off-season acquisitions (CB Johnathan Joseph, FS Danieal Manning, and DE J.J. Watt).
As the final seconds ticked off of the play-clock I began to wonder who I would consider the player of the game. What I figured out was that there was no single player that I would give the major credit too, the entire team functioned together like a well-oiled machine. However, there were a few players who stood out from the rest.
Rookie DE J.J. Watt is the first player on this list as he finished with two tackles, a sack, an interception, and a 29-yard touchdown. This kid has been a lit fuse all season and tonight he exploded! Watching him run for the end-zone with the ball in his hands was like seeing a Mack truck barreling down an icy hill…there was no stopping him. He constantly disrupted the Bengals offensive line and, despite his stats, was a major reason why the Texans defense grabbed a few interceptions.
CB Johnathan Joseph is next on this list because of his great playing when matched up against a great wide-receiver named A.J. Green. Not only did Joseph contain Green but he also managed to pick off a pass intended for the rookie as well. The match-up was a true test of Joseph’s abilities and assured everyone that he is on of the best cornerbacks in the league…if not the best.
RB Arian Foster had a huge game against the Bengals and is my final standout player. During the regular season the Bengals were ranked 10th in the league for rushing defense allowing only 3.9 yards per attempt and 104.7 total rushing yards per game. Foster blew apart both of those numbers with his 153 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. He averaged an astounding 6.4 yards per rush and led the Texans to a total of 190 rushing yards.
The Texans not only played in their first ever playoff game tonight but they also dominated the opposing team. They held their opponent scoreless in the second half of the game while tacking on two touchdowns of their own. If the Texans can maintain this level of play against the Baltimore Ravens then they just might make it a very interesting game at M & T Bank Stadium.
Congratulations Houston Texans – your city is proud of you! You have brought a winning attitude back to Houston and we look forward to more victories down the road!