Arian Foster powered the Texans past Cincinnati (USA Today Sports Images)
Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster accounted for 178 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown as the Houston Texans advanced to the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs with a 19-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Reliant Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Texans will meet the New England Patriots on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m. ET. Houston was 11-1 and headed towards the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs before they were blown out 42-14 by the Patriots on Dec. 10. That loss sent the Texans towards a 1-3 finish and the No. 3 seed in the AFC Playoffs.
After both offenses went three-and-out to start the game, the Texans would open the scoring with a 48-yard field goal by Shayne Graham midway through the first quarter. Graham added a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but the story of the first half was the defensive efforts by both the Bengals and Texans.
Houston limited the Bengals to just 53 yards of total offense and negative six yards passing in the first 30 minutes as Texans pro bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph kept Bengals pro bowl wide receiver A.J. Green off the stat sheet. Houston's offense was able to move the ball on the Bengals, racking up 250 yards in the first half. Foster ran for 86 yards on 16 carries while quarterback Matt Schaub completed 19-of-26 pass attempts for 144 yards, mostly to tight end Owen Daniels, who had seven receptions for 73 yards in the first half. The Bengals' defense would come up big in the red zone, however, keeping the Texans out of the end zone and even scored a touchdown of their own when cornerback Leon Hall took advantage of a poor decision by Schaub, undercutting a poor decision to throw to James Casey and returning the interception 29 yards for a touchdown that gave the Bengals a 7-6 lead.
The Texans would take a 9-7 lead into the half following a 22-yard field goal by Graham and would expand upon their lead on the first possession of the third quarter.
The Bengals' offense went three-and-out to start the third quarter and were forced to punt. Rookie return specialist Keshawn Martin attempted to fair catch the short punt, but was contacted by defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris, who was flagged for a 15-yard fair catch interference penalty that gave the Texans possession at their own 49-yard line. Foster had three runs and a 11-yard reception, and Schaub hit Andre Johnson for a 22-yard connection to set-up a one-yard touchdown plunge by Foster to give the Texans a 16-7.
The Bengals would respond with a seven-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal by Josh Brown to cut the Texans' lead to six and would force a punt on Houston's next offensive possession, but an Andy Dalton pass towards an unsuspecting Green landed in the hands of Joseph, who returned the interception to the Bengals' 26-yard line. The Bengals' defense once again kept Houston out of the end zone, but a 24-yard field goal by Graham made it a two-score game with just over 14 minutes to play. Cincinnati chipped into that lead with a 47-yard field goal by Brown and the defense once again did its part by getting Dalton the ball back with 6:15 to play, but as has been the case, the 2011 second-round pick out of TCU could not make the big play when his team needed one.
Dalton missed a wide open Green in the end zone on a third-down play that would have given the Bengals the lead with 2:57 remaining. On the following play, a fourth-and-11 from the Texans' 36-yard line, Dalton completed a pass to rookie Marvin Jones, who was well short of the sticks and was quickly contained by a swarming Texans defense, turning the ball over on downs. The Texans would run the ball out behind the strong running of Foster and a remarkable catch by backup tight end Garrett Graham, who took a vicious hit from Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, resulting in a 15-yard penalty.
Schaub completed 29-of-38 attempts for 262 yards and, aside from his ill-advised pick-six in the second quarter, was smart with the football, not forcing the ball into trouble and taking the check-down options. Of Schaub's 29 completions, 21 were to non-wide receivers, including a game-high nine passes for 91 yards to Daniels. Foster had 40 touches on the night, carrying the ball 32 times for 140 yards and a touchdown while adding eight receptions for 34 yards out of the backfield. Foster is first running back in NFL history to have 100 or more yards rushing in each of his first three post-season games and the Texans are now 8-0 in the 2012 regular and post-season when Foster eclipses the century mark in rushing yards.
For the Bengals, Dalton was just 14-of-30 for 127 yards and was sacked twice, including once by Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt, who had two of the Texans' 11 passes defensed on the night. Texans safety Glover Quin had a team-high three passes defensed and provided blanket coverage on tight end Jermaine Gresham, who had just two receptions for seven yards on seven targets. Green would finish with five receptions for 80 yards while running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, another forgotten man on Saturday, had 11 carries for 63 yards, including three carries for 43 yards in the first half.
The Bengals are now 0-4 in the post-season under head coach Marvin Lewis, the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL.
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