I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the Texans 19-13 win over the Bengals on Saturday. I have no voice left, and my ears are still ringing. Reliant was a madhouse. I have to admit I was afraid the crowd wouldn’t “perform” as well as they have in the past, especially after witnessing the massive amount of booing against the home team in the previous home game against Minnesota.
The Texans did their thing on defense. For this week at least, the Bulls on Parade were back. Though the Bengals haven’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut this season, Houston limited them to 198 yards and (stat of the game) literally did not allow one single third down conversion (0 for 9). Maybe even more impressive is how the Texans were able to limit Cincy’s AJ Green, who is already in the conversation for best WR in the NFL along with Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, etc. Green didn’t have a single catch in the first half of the game, and finished with five catches for 80 yards. Houston only gave up one big play to him, a 45 yard reception. That’s how you do it against a WR of Green’s ilk. You can’t stop him, but you have to make sure he doesn’t dominate you. Well done.
You can always count on JJ Watt to do what he does, and he did it once again with a sack and two passes defended. The Bengals were double and triple teaming Watt all game long, but he still had his typical impact. There’s just no stopping that guy. Even Brooks Reed got back in the groove, notching another playoff sack. Houston was able to survive their talent and health-deficient inside linebacker corps, which was a bit of a surprise to me. I expected Cincy’s tight ends to be running free, but the Bengals offensive game plan, I thought, left a lot to be desired.
Connor Barwin had a pretty solid game Saturday, playing the run well and getting some good pressure on the quarterback at times. Barwin has certainly improved in the last quarter or so of the season, and with the horrible inconsistencies that have plagued this team – it’s good to be able to say that about anyone on either side of the ball right now.
On offense, it certainly seemed as if the Texans were about to bust through their recent struggles. The team moved the ball with ease at times, with Arian Foster and the offensive line looking like the group of old. On top of that, hey – Owen Daniels sighting. OD was catching balls all over the place, and Matt Schaub looked pretty good out there despite his one absolutely huge and unforgivable mistake that resulted in a Leon Hall interception return touchdown. The Texans rolled up 420 total offensive yards against arguably the best defensive front in the playoff field, but they still couldn’t cash it in once they reached the red zone. Houston settled for four Shayne Graham field goals (48, 27, 22, 24), and one touchdown by Foster, who had a magnificent game.
Arian Foster. Just, wow. In person, I had no idea what a great game Foster was having. When I saw stats during the game that said he had gone over the 100-yard mark, I was surprised. When I re-watched the game, I was STUNNED at what a great game he and the offensive line had. Foster was SUPERB on Saturday, with superior vision, patience, and the ability to get a few extra inches here and there – basically all the things that Foster is so good at. Sure helps when your offensive line plays so well. Unexpectedly well, at that – the Bengals are very, very good up front on defense.
Though we all would have loved to see touchdowns over field goals in this game, it felt REALLY good to see the team close out the game on offense, with Arian Foster getting a first down with a 10-yard run on 2nd & 8. Everyone in the building knew 23 was getting the ball, and he unleashed a great 10-yard run – gliding, cutting, and getting some great blocking – especially from oft-maligned Wade Smith, who just did EVERYTHING he could to hold his block long enough for Arian to get by.
Of course, the reward for all of this is a return trip to Foxboro. If there is one element to the team that I could instantly wish to be “fixed” to give the team the best chance to win in New England, it would be the offensive line above anything else (and it’s not close). The Texans offensive line played a VERY good game against the Bengals, who were obviously playing better defense up front than the Patriots have been.
So there’s that if you’re looking for a little hope. If the O-Line is who they were against the Bengals, hey – anything can happen next week. Unfortunately lately, that performance has been the exception and not the rule.