Texans lead Bengals 16-10 after third quarter
Arian Foster ran for a long-awaited touchdown and set a little postseason history on Saturday, leading the Houston Texans to a 16-10 lead over the Cincinnati Bengals after three quarters of their playoff rematch.
The Texans dominated but had to settle for Shayne Graham's three field goals in the first half. Foster finally got into the end zone on a 1-yard dive in the third quarter, putting the Texans in control.
He also became the first running back to top 100 yards in each of his first three playoff games, getting 113 yards on 26 carries through three quarters.
Still, it was up for grabs because Pro Bowl passer Matt Schaub made one bad mistake. His sideline pass was intercepted by Leon Hall and returned for a 21-yard touchdown, the cornerback's second score in three games.
Given how much the Texans dominated, the Bengals were fortunate to be so close. Houston piled up 351 yards and held the ball for 32 minutes, but got into the end zone only once.
By contrast, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton had a horrid time. He completed 4 of 10 passes for 3 yards in the first half. With J.J. Watt's sack added in, the Bengals had minus-6 yards passing and only 53 yards overall.
His 45-yard pass to A.J. Green got Cincinnati moving in the third quarter and set up Josh Brown's 34-yard field goal. When Dalton tried to go to Green again, Johnathan Joseph intercepted and got the Texans in scoring range again as the quarter ended.
After swatting down one of Dalton's passes at the line, Watt wagged his finger at the quarterback.
Nothing was going to come easy.
For the second season in a row, the Bengals opened the playoffs at Houston looking for their first playoff win since 1990, a 21-year drought that was tied for ninth-longest in NFL history. They lost 31-10 last season, with the then-rookie Dalton throwing three interceptions.
The main difference in this one: Schaub was back in charge for Houston. Rookie T.J. Yates filled in after Schaub hurt his foot last season, got the Texans a win in their first-ever playoff game, but couldn't take then any farther.
Their franchise quarterback started a playoff game for the first time in his career. He came into the game in a slump, with the Texans losing three of their last four games while the offense sputtered.
The second time the Texans got the ball, they got going. Schaub completed an 18-yard pass, Foster had a 17-yard run and Keshawn Martin went 16 yards on a reverse, setting up Graham's field goal.
It became a pattern - move the ball down the field, settle for three points. The fans started booing the familiar, come-up-short endings.
And Schaub did the one thing he wanted to avoid: Let Cincinnati's high-scoring defense get its hands on the ball. Hall anticipated Schaub's throw, stepped in front and returned it untouched for the defense's fourth touchdown in the last four games.
Hall also ran back an interception 17 yards for the only Bengals touchdown in a 13-10 win over Pittsburgh that clinched a playoff spot. It was the first interception return for a touchdown against the Texans this season.
Like the Texans, the Bengals ended the season by hitting a wall on offense - one touchdown in the last two games.
A lot was on Dalton, who grew up in suburban Katy and had a dreadful playoff debut as a rookie last year in his hometown. He threw three interceptions, including one that Watt returned for a game-turning touchdown just before halftime.
He had to be better if the Bengals were going to end their notable playoff drought. Through three quarters, it wasn't even close.
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