The Houston Texans won their first ever NFL playoff game with a 31-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, earning them a divisional-round clash with the Baltimore Ravens.
Houston running back Arian Foster was once again made the difference, scoring two touchdowns and rushing for 153 yards as Houston delighted a record crowd of 71,725 at Reliant Stadium.
The Texans were playing in their first playoff game since joining the NFL in 2002 and the city of Houston was enjoying post-season football for the first time since the old Oilers franchise lost in January 1994.
A pair of rookie quarterbacks started a playoff game for the first time and T.J. Yates, Houston’s third stringer at the start of the season, had the better day with a solid 159 yards and no interceptions.
Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton had a tougher time, throwing for 257 yards, but giving up three interceptions as he came under pressure against a forceful Texans defense.
The Texans, who lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart to injury this season, kept to the formula which helped them to the AFC South divisional title — running the ball effectively, hitting receiver Andre Johnson with some big plays, and making sure that Yates kept it safe and simple — but it was the Bengals who made the first breakthrough on Saturday as a 52-yard penalty for defensive pass interference on A.J. Green helped Cincinnati toward a one-yard touchdown run from Cedric Benson midway through the first quarter.
Foster burst through for an eight-yard touchdown run to level it at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bengals got back in front with a 37-yard Mike Nugent field goal after he had earlier missed from 50 yards.
Houston responded with a field goal of their own, before the turning point in the game came when rookie J.J. Watt pulled off a magnificent catch at close-range to intercept a Dalton pass and then dash 29 yards for the score.
“That was a huge play, that gave us a lot of momentum going into the second half,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said.
Yates then found Andre Johnson out wide for a 40-yard touchdown catch in the third, before Foster again showed his power, speed and awareness with a 42-yard run to seal the victory.