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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