The Houston Texans don’t resemble the team that began the season 11-1, but at least they have Arian Foster posting big numbers again while their defensive line does enough to mask other weaknesses.
It was never going to be a high scoring affair at Reliant Stadium, as the Cincinnati Bengals got a chance to avenge their playoff loss to Houston from exactly a year ago. Matt Schaub started for Houston and in his first ever postseason game, but it was never about him. Schaub is only the second option in this offense, and relies on Arian Foster getting yards early, setting up the play action. Andy Dalton is only in his second year, but looks more and more like the same kind of quarterback.
The two quarterbacks both combined for 0 touchdowns and two interceptions. Problem for the Bengals was that they didn’t have anything happening in their running game as well. Arian Foster ran for 140 yards and Houston’s only touchdown of the day, but that was enough, along with field goal after field goal Shane Graham scored. Matt Schaub only had to minimize his mistakes, finishing with 29-38 for 262 yards and an interception.
Foster, still playing with this I’m-going-to-prove-something attitude, set a record for most yards in a player’s first three postseason games. He now has 425; 42 more than Fred Taylor and 49 more than Terrell Davis.
The Bengals couldn’t get a running game going. The Houston Texans are about their front seven in their defense. Pedestrian quarterbacks like Andy Dalton simply don’t have the ability to take advantage of that weak secondary, because they hardly got a chance to exploit it. Dalton was sacked only twice, but got too many uncomfortable looks, as J.J. Watt was unstoppable again, deflecting two passes and recording a sack among his two tackles for a loss. The Texans had a total of five. Bengals running game? They did average 5 yards per carry, but only went for 80 on 16. Too much Dalton (14-30, 127 yards, 1 interception) if you ask me.
Besides Foster, the big hero on offense was Owen Daniels. The 30 year old tight end enjoyed his best season since 2008, and led the Texans with 9 receptions for 91 yards, helping Schaub on third down in another big difference between the two teams: The Bengals didn’t convert a single third down all game, finishing with only 198 total yards. The Texans were 8-17.
And where was that Bengals pass rush? The Texans were able to get play action going very early and very well. They couldn’t sack Matt Schaub who did throw one bad pass that led to the Bengals’ only touchdown through the Leon Hall interception, but he was efficient as he should be for the rest of the game, leading the Texans to a total 420 yards on offense; more than anyone got against the Bengals in their last 10 games.
This is Houston; this is what they’re about. We’re not going to see a different kind of game plan from them against the next opponent, whoever it may be. Both the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots (already proving it this season) have the weapons to pick apart that secondary while containing the running game. Houston’s only chance is perfect execution of a game plan everyone knows about.