HOUSTON – J.J. Watt swatted away passes, Arian Foster ran away from tacklers and the Houston Texans did just enough to knock Cincinnati out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
Matt Schaub made his first postseason start a successful one when Foster’s 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter helped the Texans to a 19-13 AFC wild-card win over the Bengals on Saturday.
“The whole stadium knew we had to line up and run the ball and boy, he was at his best there at the end,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s become a fine, fine player, and it just seems like the bigger it gets, the better Arian gets.”
Now comes the big test. The Texans (13-4) move on to the second round on Jan. 13, when they visit the New England Patriots, who beat them 42-14 in Week 14. This time they’re 9 1/2-point underdogs.
“It’s one step,” Watt said of the win. “We know what it means, and we have bigger goals than that.”
Shayne Graham kicked four field goals for the Texans, while Foster finished with 140 yards and became the first NFL player to have 100-yard games in each of his first three playoff games.
Watt finished with a sack and swatted away two of Andy Dalton’s pass attempts.
The Texans defense smothered Dalton and the Bengals early. Their second drive ended when Connor Barwin tackled BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 6-yard loss and Watt followed with a sack of Dalton.
Houston’s offense had the ball for almost 39 minutes as it ate up the clock with a season-high 32 carries from Foster.
The Texans had trouble finishing drives and managed three field goals in the first half against the Bengals (10-7). Houston struck first after the break, with Foster scoring the game’s only offensive TD to make it 16-7.
Schaub, who missed last year’s playoffs with a foot injury, had an interception returned for a touchdown by Leon Hall before halftime.
“It was never easy,” Schaub said. “Cincinnati is a great team. I made a turnover and gave them points. We just had to rally around each other and we did that.”
“We like to run the ball and play good defense,” Foster said. “It only takes one week to turn things around in the NFL and we did that.”
The Bengals couldn’t do anything offensively before the break, and were outgained 250-53 in the first half. Dalton was 4 of 10 for 3 yards in the first half.