Texans survive Bengals in AFC Wild Card

HOUSTON — Your take on the Houston Texans’ performance Saturday depends largely on whether or not you happen to be a member of the Texans organization.

If you do, you left Reliant Stadium beaming after Saturday’s 19-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round of the AFC playoffs. If you were owner Bob McNair, you were talking about wanting to kiss Arian Foster. If you were J.J. Watt, you were talking about how much fun you had.

If you were Foster, you were talking about fighting off the romantic advances of an elderly billionaire.

“I don’t know if Bob would get that close,” Foster said. “A nice little hug will do.

It was like that.

If you were quarterback Matt Schaub, you were swaddling yourself in the warmth of finally starting, and winning, a playoff game. If you were cornerback Johnathan Joseph, you were just glad Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton overthrew A.J. Green in the end zone. If you were coach Gary Kubiak, you were proud of your team for putting the last month behind it.

But if you were one of a few thousand Texans fans at Reliant Stadium, you were booing the home team.

“I love our crowd,” Foster said. “Our crowd’s getting spoiled, man, with this booing. We’re OK. I love this city, though.”

Maybe this is one of those situations in which everybody is right and nobody is wrong.

The Texans were, in fact, one Dalton overthrow from trailing the Bengals with a little more than two minutes left. A.J. Green had gotten behind Joseph and safety Danieal Manning by two steps, but Dalton tossed it out the back of the end zone.

So the Texans did nearly lose the game, which was confounding because they dominated the Bengals in every other conceivable way.

Yards: 420-198. First downs: 24-12. Time of possession: 38:49-21:11. The Bengals didn’t convert a third down or get a sack all day. They averaged 3.7 yards per pass attempt. Dalton was 14-for-30.

“I think if you look at all the statistical categories we (dominated),” tight end Owen Daniels said.

There were no big special teams plays, either. The closeness of the game could be accounted for in basically two plays. The first was Leon Hall’s interception return for a touchdown that put the Bengals up 7-6 in the second quarter. The second was another misfire by Schaub, who from inside the Cincinnati 5-yard line threw too low and too far in front of an open Andre Johnson in the end zone, forcing Houston to kick a field goal for a 9-7 lead.

So that’s 11 points right there, the difference between the booing and the handwringing going on in Houston Saturday night and the alternate reality inside the Texans’ locker room, where wins are not evaluated on their aesthetics and basically everybody except Schaub got to leave Reliant Stadium Saturday feeling he had done his job at close to maximum effect, and even Schaub went 29-for-38 for 262 yards.

Foster had 140 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, becoming the first player in NFL history to gain at least 100 yards in all of his first three playoff games. J.J. Watt had a sack, two tackles for loss and two pass deflections. Joseph had an interception. Tight end Owen Daniels exploited an advantage over Cincinnati’s linebackers for nine catches.

It was Houston’s most complete performance in a month, and yet the Texans darn near lost it.

The red zone got awfully sticky Saturday, as it is wont to do. The Texans got inside the Bengals’ 10 four times, and came away with just one touchdown. Foster even exchanged some playful banter with a reporter who brought up the red zone failures. He wasn’t real interested in talking about bad things.

This was a good day.

“It’s exciting to do it in front of our home crowd after the way things have gone the last month,” Schaub said. “To right the ship and come away with a victory, it wasn’t pretty.”

Certainly not. But the Texans didn’t need pretty. They needed to feel good about themselves again.

“This was not an easy game,” defensive end Antonio Smith said. “A lot of things happened that could have taken us down the same road like the past few weeks where bad things happen and you kind of let it turn you around.

“We stood up this time.”