Back to Bulls, Texans advance in playoffs

Back to Bulls, Texans advance in playoffs
January 5, 2013, 9:30 pm
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Smith goes 1-on-1 after the playoff win

All week the Texans’ defense talked about getting back to playing their brand of football, getting back to the kind of defense that propelled them to an 11-1 start.

The defense wanted to get back to playing like the Bulls on Parade.

On Saturday afternoon, the Bulls on Parade trampled the Bengals in a 19-13 win in the wild card round at Reliant Stadium.

“It feels good,” defensive lineman J.J. Watt said. “It’s a playoff game and to win a playoff game is a tough thing to accomplish. It’s one step and we have bigger goals in mind.”

Those bigger goals will take form next Sunday at 3:30 p.m. CT when the Texans will be in New England to take on the Patriots, the same team that crushed them in a Monday Night Football game a few weeks ago.

But they’ll worry about the Patriots during the week. After the game on Saturday, they just wanted to spend a few minutes celebrating the return of the Bulls.

“It’s so much fun,” Watt said. “It’s so much fun to be a part of this defense when everybody’s flying around, everyone’s making plays. It felt like the Bulls on Parade again today. That was our goal at the beginning of the week, getting back to the way we played, getting back to the Bulls on Parade, and we played like that today.”

The Texans gave up 13 points and 198 yards. It’s the second time since 2007 that a team has given up 13 or fewer points and 198 or fewer yards in the playoffs. Really, the defense only gave up six points -- seven of them came on a Matt Schaub pick-six.

What was even more impressive, however, was the way the Texans were able to get off the field in key moments. As a whole, the defense had struggled third downs of late. They didn’t have that problem on Saturday. The Bengals didn’t convert any of their nine third-down attempts.

“That has always been a part of our defense and we got back to it,” Antonio Smith said. “We got back to making that important: getting off on third downs and players making plays. If you don’t make plays in this game, you don’t win.

Even after controlling the tempo for most of the game – the Texans won the time of possession battle 38:49 to 21:11 – the Bengals had the ball with a chance to take the lead and possibly win the game.

Andy Dalton – a graduate of Katy High School – drove the Bengals all the way down to inside the Texans’ 40 with around three minutes to go. After a BenJarvus Green-Ellis run for a loss and an incompletion, Dalton took a shot at the end zone for A.J. Green, one of the biggest threats in the NFL.

Dalton overthew Green on the pass and the Bengals failed to convert on fourth down.

After that big series, the Texans had the ball with 2:44 left. Several handoffs to Arian Foster, who finished with a monster 140 yards on 32 attempts, and a key third-down reception by Garrett Graham and the game was over.

Schaub won his first-ever playoff game. He completed 29-of38 passes for 262 yards and an interception.

Despite out-playing the Bengals greatly in the first half, they entered the locker room with a 9-7 advantage. For a short time, they even lost the lead, when Matt Schaub threw an interception that was returned 21 yards for a touchdown by Leon Hall.

The Texans eventually were able to hold off the Bengals for a win but it wasn’t an easy one. In fact, not much has been easy for the Texans lately. After starting the season as the hottest team in the AFC, they lost three of their last four to stumble their way into the playoffs. They lost a first-round bye, the No. 1 seed and had to play the white-hot Bengals in a wild card game.

“I think these guys have stayed the course the whole way,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “They’ve been through a tough month and that’s a part of the National Football League. And the reason we won today was that nobody on this football team ever panics. They have a lot of class. They understand there’s gonna be highs and lows and that’s how they were able to stand up to this challenge today.”

Since the Texans were the third seed, they’re automatically the highest seed to move on this weekend, so they’ll face the Patriots in Foxboro next weekend.

Had the Texans just won last week, they would have been the No. 1 seed and the road to the Super Bowl would have gone through Houston. They didn’t and now they have to go back to New England, where they were spanked 42-14 a month ago.
 
“It’s a big challenge,” Watt said. “Obviously, we didn’t play as well as we can play the last time we were there. They’re a very good football team in a very tough building but nobody said the road to the Super Bowl was easy and you have to earn it. And we’re going to have to go on the road in a very tough environment and play our best ball and we’re excited about it.”