Houston Texans advance with win over Bengals

  • By Gregg Rosenthal
  • Updated: Jan. 5, 2013 at 08:47 p.m.

The Houston Texans from the first 12 games of the season returned on Sunday, just in time for the playoffs.

Houston advanced to the Divisional Round with a 19-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that was a lot more one-sided than the score indicates.

It wasn't pretty, but this is Texans football. They held the ball for more than 38 minutes, rushing the ball 37 times. The defense swarmed, led by another monster J.J. Watt game. (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, and another pass defensed.) The Bengals offense never had room to breathe. By the end of the game, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was seeing ghosts.

There are points to quibble with. Houston never should have let the Bengals hang around. Matt Schaub threw a killer interception returned for a touchdown in the first half and often played it safe by checking down on third-and-long. The Texans settled for four field goals.

It says a lot that some fans will take issue with Houston's performance in a playoff victory. The franchise has come a long way under Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith; wins in back-to-back playoffs help to validate them. The expectations have been raised.

Close score aside, this win should give the Texans a lot of confidence. It was the most complete performance by the team since their Week 7 domination of the Baltimore Ravens. Back then, the Texans looked like a surefire No. 1 seed that would be a Super Bowl favorite.

Now the Texans will go on the road to face the New England Patriots in a game that few people will expect them to win. The hard part for any franchise is going from good to great.

The Texans took a big step on Saturday, but they still haven't shown they can exceed expectations on a big stage. They'll have their chance next week in Foxborough.