Texans hold on to beat Bengals, clinch AFC South title
It was not an easy game to watch, but the Houston Texans got some big plays and some Christmas luck late in the game to beat Cincinnati and clinch its second straight AFC South division title.
Tom Savage, in his first start in the NFL, struggled in the first half of the game. In the end, he threw for 127 yards and Alfred Blue scored on a 24-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, which was the big play to lead the Texans to a win.
The Bengals drove late in the game in position to win the game. But former Texans kicker Randy Bullock failed to get revenge on the team that cut him last year. He pushed what would have been the game-winning 43-yard field goal too far to the right with no time left.
The game shouldn’t have been this close, as the Texans had two possessions inside the Cincy 10-yard line. But didn’t get a touchdown on either drive and had to settle for field goals by Nick Novak on both drives.
Neither team played well offensively in the first half, as both teams combined for 12 punts, with Houston only garnering 34 yards in the half. The Bengals scratched a drive together to get a 43-yard field goal by Bullock for a 3-0 halftime lead.
In the second half Savage, who was 18-of-25 in the game, put together a nice drive aided by some Bengal penalties to get to the Cincinnati 8, but a false start penalty stopped momentum and led to a 25-yard field goal by Novak to tie the game at 3.
Late in the third quarter, the Texans again got deep into Bengal territory thanks to penalties, and a 24-yard pass by Savage to Akeem Hunt on a wheel route put the ball at the Cincy 4. But again, no TD, and another Novak FG from 22 yards made it 6-3.
Cincinnati got a big play midway in the fourth quarter as Brandon Lafell caught a slant pass from Andy Dalton and beat all the Houston defenders for an 86-yard touchdown play to put the Bengals up 10-6.
On the next drive, Savage hit Will Fuller for 19 yards, then ran for 11 himself, and found DeAndre Hopkins on a 21-yard pass that set up a 24-yard touchdown run by Blue. The PAT was blocked, which could have cost the Texans the win.
Blue had 73 yards on 21 carries in relief of Lamar Miller, who missed the game with an ankle injury. Hopkins was held to only three catches for 43 yards, while C.J. Fiedorowicz had four catches for 42 yards.
Thanks to Tennessee’s loss to Jacksonville earlier in the day; Houston, now 9-6 on the season, had a chance to wrap up the division title that night. If Bullock’s kick was true, it would have set up a do-or-die against the Titans in Music City next week.
Now, that game is only important for the Texans playoff seeding. Houston is now the fourth seed in the AFC, with the chance to move up to three. They with some favorable results the rest of the way though. Houston will host a wild-card game in two weeks, that we know for sure.
But we look at playoff seeding and Houston’s possible opponents later. Today, it’s time to celebrate a division title in a season that looked dim in October. After tough losses to New England, Minnesota and Denver early in the season, it looked like Houston would regress.
Oh, and it’s also time to celebrate being around your family and loved ones today. Have a merry Christmas, everyone.