The Port Arthur News
J.J. Watt explained after the Texans 19-13 playoff victory Saturday that momentum really mattered very little.
Cincinnati’s downtrodden Bengals had to believe J.J. after they departed Reliant Stadium on Saturday night. Entering their AFC wild card game as winners in 7 of their previous 8 games, the visitors never found the end zone on offense.
Momentum clearly was not on Houston’s side, as the Texans arrived with 3 losses in their last 4 games. But Wade Phillips, Watt, Jonathan Joseph, Connor Barwin, Glover Quin and the Texans defense were on Houston’s side.
The Texans advanced into next Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff round by delivering one of the most memorable defensive performances that Mid-County legend Phillips has ever seen in his storied career as both a head coach and defensive coordinator.
With a Reliant Stadium record crowd of 71,738 cheering like a 12th Texans defender, Cincinnati was a humiliating 0 of 9 in third-down conversions, maintaining possession only 21 minutes and 11 seconds in this 60-minute affair.
“You can only say that our defense was exceptional,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “We just kept making big plays.”
Houston’s second franchise playoff win came against the same foe as the first. The Texans knocked out the same Bengals here last year, 31-10, but this arguably turned into more of a nail-biter.
“I don’t know if I can stand any more excitement, though,” club owner Robert McNair said in a quiet and tired winner’s locker room. “It was nerve-wrecking to the end.”
This game borrowed a page right out of 20th century football, complete with superior defenses and ground games. It appropriately featured a runner with a new NFL playoff rushing mark.
Texans tailback Arian Foster became the first NFL rusher to run for 100 yards in his career’s first three playoff games. Foster jabbed the Bengals 32 times for 140 yards and a score. He had rushed for 153 against Cincinnati and 132 against Baltimore in last year’s post-season.
“It’s not just myself,” Foster said. “It’s my offensive line, our receivers, our quarterback play. I think we controlled the line of scrimmage. But we want to do better in the red zone. When you get into the red zone, you’ve got to be able to score touchdowns.”
With such a suffocating defense excusing Cincinnati’s offense all day, the Texans clearly could have won by more than six points with more red-zone efficiency. They scored only one touchdown in four red-zone visits, settling for three Shayne Graham first-half field goals.
Cincinnati kept it within two points (9-7) at half due to Leon Hall’s 21-yard touchdown runback of an interception. Matt Schaub dangerously flipped a short sideline pass in the direction of James Casey but Hall timed his break on the ball perfectly.
Unlike so many younger coaches, Kubiak stayed patient, held steadfast to Schaub, Foster and his ground game and dialed tight end Owen Daniels for a game-high 9 catches and 91 receiving yards.
The other big catch for the Texans resulted when corner Joseph darted 14 yards with an interception runback to set up a fourth-quarter field goal. Joseph did a superb job of covering Cincinnati’s standout receiver A.J. Green, who still grabbed five passes for 80 yards.