When the Houston Texans closed the regular season with three straight losses, it appeared either they had lost their edge after clinching their first postseason spot or that their string of injuries had caught up to them. Wrong on both counts. Yeah, they might have coasted into the playoffs, but they had every bit of their competitive spirit back Saturday in a 31-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The league's No. 2-ranked defense sacked quarterback Andy Dalton four times and picked off three of his passes. One interception was by defensive end J.J. Watt (pictured), who returned it for a touchdown. It's always a good thing when your defense scores as many touchdowns as it allows. Next up for the Texans is a road game against the veteran Baltimore Ravens, who know a thing or two about winning postseason games with defense. But the Ravens, who ranked No. 3 in total defense this season, are 1-3 all-time when they have faced a higher-ranked defense in the playoffs. The Texans are bringing strength against strength next week. Game Trax | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Playoff schedule
Is this just destined to happen?
The Tim Tebow story was a blast in the regular season, but with the Denver Broncos staggering into the postseason, Sunday was to be this season's final chapter. Surely the Steelers defense would bring the Tebow show to an end. Tom Brady vs. Ben Roethlisberger in the divisional round. But a funny thing happened on the way to Foxborough. The QB with the worst mechanics in the league had his best passing day as a pro — in the second quarter. And after the Steelers rallied to tie the game in the fourth quarter and force the first postseason overtime under the NFL's new OT rules, Tebow decided not to put those new rules to use, instead ending the shortest OT in history with an 80-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas to give the Broncos a 29-23 win. Tebow's final stats: 10 of 21, 316 yards, 2 TDs, zero interceptions. Oh yeah, this is Tim Tebow we're talking about: He added 50 yards and a TD on the ground. Game Trax | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Playoff schedule
Something had to give
Despite having a Super Bowl ring, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning never had won a home playoff game. Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan had not won a playoff game regardless of site. One of those streaks was sure to end Sunday. The Giants' defense made sure it would be Manning's by shutting down Atlanta completely. The Falcons mustered only 247 yards and reached got into the red zone — within the Giants' 20-yard line — only once. Manning wasn't just along for the ride, however. He fired three touchdown passes against no interceptions. With Ryan winless in the playoffs still, that means coach Mike Smith also is munching on a doughnut. Smith was as conservative Sunday as his team was tight. He twice called four Ryan to attempt quarterback sneaks on key four-and-1 plays. This, despite having two-time Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner at the ready. The Giants next head to Lambeau Field to take on an offense that will show up, the Green Bay Packers. It's a daunting task, sure, but Manning has just as many playoff wins at Lambeau as he has in the Meadowlands. Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Playoff schedule
Little guy was a huge addition
The Philadelphia Eagles made headlines during the condensed NFL offseason, but the New Orleans Saints had perhaps the best player transaction by signing the versatile Darren Sproles away from the San Diego Chargers. Sproles can run between the tackles, run around the corners, stay in the backfield to block blitzers, swing out as a receiver and return both punts and kickoffs. Saints coach Sean Payton made full use as Sproles set an NFL record with 2,696 all-purpose yards in the regular season. Sproles is only 5-foot-6, but he runs strong and breaks arm tackles, as Detroit's Ndamukong Suh learned (pictured). Sproles was just one of many stars in the Saints' 45-28 undressing of the Lions on Saturday, but he still had 143 all-purpose yards and two rushing TDs. He could be an even bigger factor against the San Francisco 49ers in the next round, as his blocking and receiving abilities become more important against the 49ers' superior pass rush. The Niners know they'll have to wrap up on Sproles when quarterback Drew Brees dumps off quick passes. Arm tackles just won't do because Sproles can turn a short pass into a big gain in an instant. Game Trax | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Playoff schedule