The Houston Texans entered into Saturday afternoon’s wildcard game with the Cincinnati Bengals carrying more than just the hopes of moving on to the next round of the 2013 NFL playoffs.
After losing three of four games to end the regular season, the Texans were surrounded by doubts and worries that all added up to one big question mark hanging over the best record in franchise history.
But despite the late-season setbacks, Houston came into this game and handled its business, staying off the feisty Bengals in a 19-13 win in a rocking Reliant Stadium.
The Texans will now travel to New England to face the Patriots in the next round of the playoffs for a rematch of the week 14 Monday Night Football showdown in which Houston was humiliated in a 42-14 blowout. There’s no question that this meeting will carry drastically different implications and likely a different taste and feel.
Houston will certainly look to change things up, as the Patriots had them beat at every turn and snuffed out the Texans’ game plan from the beginning.
The resurgence of Arian Foster against the Bengals on Saturday was certainly a boost to the team’s morale. The running back carried the ball 32 times for 140 yards, scored one touchdown, and caught eight balls for 34 yards.
This is exactly the kind of performance Houston will need from Foster next week to have success against the Patriots.
In week 14, Foster was held to 46 yards on 15 carries, and although he did score a touchdown, he didn’t have enough of an impact to change the game.
Matt Schaub did not make the impression that his fans were hoping for in his playoff debut. He finished the day 29-of-38 passing for 262 yards and one interception.
Schaub was saved by the play of Foster and the Texans’ defense that held the Bengals out of the end zone for the entire game.
If recent trends continue, the Texans will need all the help they can from their defense and their backfield to have a chance at winning the Lombardi trophy – not-to-mention next week’s matchup.
As for the game with Cincinnati, the Texans really didn’t do anything flashy, and didn’t take chances. But despite yielding a somewhat subdued playoff game, in terms of entertainment value, the formula was largely successful to keep the Bengals at bay and contain the game to a battle of the defenses.
If I had a game ball to give, I would award it to head coach Gary Kubiak, who inspired his team to overcome their late-season struggles and get a win in the biggest game his team has played this year. His clock awareness and his overall management of the game were also invaluable in determining the outcome of the game.
The Texans will need all of that and more again next week as they go head-to-head with the great football mind of Bill Belichick.
As for now the Texans live to play another day. They have the talent to hang with anyone, and we have all seen flashes of their brilliance. But we’ve also seen signs of inexperience, immaturity and a lock of focus.
At times this year it seems like the Texans have fielded two entirely different teams from week to week.
The question now becomes: which team will show up one week from now?
The Houston Texans meet the New England Patriots in Gillett Stadium at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.