Suffice to say, scoring only one offensive TD, as the Texans did for the fourth consecutive week in their 19-13 wild-card round playoff victory over the Bengals, won't cut it in the divisional round in Foxborough. Houston was throttled there by the Patriots, 42-14, back in Week 14.
However, there were some very enouraging signs from the Texans' offense in the win over Cincinnati that we have not seen during their second-half slide.
The best player on the field in the first contest with New England was Patriots DT Vince Wilfork, who tallied a sack, tackle for loss, forced fumble and batted ball, manhandling the interior of the Texans' offensive line. But after neutralizing Bengals Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins, not allowing QB Matt Schaub to be sacked for the first time since Week 13 and paving the way for 158 rushing yards on 39 carries, the maligned Texans' offensive line can build on its success as it prepares to face off against Wilfork and Co. again.
Schaub was guilty of a horrible pick-six against Cincinnati — similar to the poor decision he made throwing late over the middle on his interception to Patriots S Devin McCourty in Week 14 — but he played better than he had over the previous month, not only because of the great protection he received, but also the presence of a consistent receiving option other than Andre Johnson. TE Owen Daniels became the first Texan to lead the team in receiving since Week 10, an important development, as the passing offense is much more multiple and harder to defend when it isn't run through Johnson exclusively.
Head coach Gary Kubiak was badly outcoached by Bill Belichick in the first meeting, but he got away from the predictable play-calling against Cincinnati that hampered the offense over the last month-plus of the season. Don't confuse conservative for predictable; Kubiak wisely avoided taking unnecessary chances against the Bengals with his defense dominating the proceedings, but he caught the Bengals off guard on more than one occasion and helped his offense developing a rhythym earlier than in recent weeks.