Texans/Bengals -- 4 Winning Plays That Never Would Have Happened in 2010
Sunday morning, about an hour before the Texans and Bengals kicked off, I was driving to the grocery store with my girlfriend Amy to pick up some "Texans watching" supplies -- chips, sandwich paraphernalia, beverages, etc. (Xanax no longer necessary this season.) Unsolicited, I started raising the possibilities of which dates the Texans could be playing a home playoff game come January, especially relevant for Amy, who is a season-ticket holder since inception.
T.J. Yates is on a roll.
Amy jumped in after about the second scenario, and suggested perhaps I stop forecasting playoff permutations for fear that I may be jinxing the team.
Normally, I'd oblige, but I reminded her that this team has overcome lost seasons to Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, Schaub's backup Matt Leinart, and sizable lost chunks of the season to Andre Johnson, Danieal Manning, James Casey and Arian Foster.
In short, there's nothing I can do to this team that the football gods haven't already tried to do to them.
Unsuccessfully, I might add.
When T.J. Yates hit Kevin Walter with a six-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left in regulation, it extended the Texans' franchise-record winning streak to seven games and by the time the team was ready to shower after the game, a Titans loss had given the Texans their first division title and playoff berth in team history.
This winning streak has been marked by mostly lopsided scores where the Texans jumped out to early leads and then just choked their opponent into submission. Last week against Atlanta, they never trailed but had to play meaningful, pressure-packed possessions in the fourth quarter. A team that fate has dealt a very slim margin for error, the Texans have rarely had to test said margin.
Through a combination of inexcusable turnovers and poor execution on both sides of the ball, the Texans found themselves trailing the Bengals 16-3 at the half, the biggest crippling blow being a Ben Tate fumble inside the Bengal five-yard line that not only kept the Texans from going up 10-6, but swung momentum to where the Bengals then went on a 7:45 Texan-esque drive of their own to go up 13-3.
The Bengals would take a 16-3 lead into the locker room, and I'll be honest -- it felt like a 28-3 lead for a few reasons:
-- The defense played its first bad half of football since the Baltimore game in Week 6, and even worse, the mistakes in the secondary weren't just confined to the periodic Kareem Jackson "invisible roller skates" pirouette. Johnathan Joseph has his hands full with rookie A.J. Green.
-- The 7:45 drive by the Bengals made it clear that this would be a game where possessions would be at a premium, meaning the Texans would have to play close to perfect football on one side of the ball (wound up being the defensive side) and above average on the other side of the ball (would up being the offensive side of the ball).
-- This was T.J. Yates's first NFL start on the road. Just look around the league at the various backup quarterbacks who can barely get their teams across midfield, and then think about how unlikely this admittedly small sample space of Yates's leading this team is. More on this in a minute.
Last season, coming back from being down 16-3 at the half would have meant Matt Schaub's throwing the ball about 30 times in the second half and the defense praying that the other team screwed up enough to mitigate further damage.
But this isn't last season.
To me, four plays stood out as pivotal, necessary plays that we probably wouldn't have seen from this team in 2010: