Texans 31, Bengals 10: Andre Johnson's Return Sparks Offensive Revival
Andre Johnson was poised to assume the role of feel-good story in any Texan playoff win, regardless of how it came about. Nine seasons of brilliant play that (until now) had been overshadowed by team-wide failures can have that effect.
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For the first time in months, though, Houston's star receiver also became the headliner through his on-field play.
It comes just in the nick of time for the Texans, who cruised to victory in their first postseason appearance. It earns them a trip to Baltimore to play the defensively stout Ravens in the second round next Sunday.
"We played the football that we had been playing when we were winning, and that's what we were after," said head coach Gary Kubiak.
Yates-era offense sets new high mark
Prior to Saturday, the four full games for the T.J. Yates-led Texans resulted in point totals of 17, 20, 13 and 16. That led many to predict that any postseason success would have to come in tight, low-scoring games dominated by the defense.
But of those previous four games, Johnson played in only one -- and under three quarters, at that.
Saturday's romp over the Bengals proved that Johnson remains a game-changer for the Texans offense, which scored 24 points on offense and might have put up even more if not for going conservative with a giant fourth-quarter lead.
"We got 80 into his groove and made some plays," said left tackle Duane Brown.
"I think it's very big from a confidence standpoint," said linebacker and team MVP Brian Cushing. "[Johnson] is one of the best players and best receivers ever, I think, and to have him out on the field is huge. Just to see 80 out there, I know that really you can go up to him any play."
Rust showed in first half
It didn't come easy for Johnson or the Texans, who spent much of the first half trying to re-establish a rhythm. On the first possession of the game, Johnson was wide open for a first down (and a lot more) on a 3rd-and-5 drag route. But Yates rushed the throw and it sailed, forcing a punt.
Later in the half, Johnson dropped what should've been an easy catch for a first down, and also wasn't able to come down with a jump ball in the end zone against single coverage. The latter forced the Texans to settle for a field goal, tying the score at 10 instead of taking the lead.
Fortunately for the Texans, J.J. Watt's ensuing interception return for a touchdown gave them the halftime advantage. But going into the break, the offense knew that it hadn't held up its end of the bargain.
"Everybody was just telling me be patient, be patient," Johnson said. "You know when you are playing a game like this and you are going what I went through this year, you just want to make something happen so bad to where I think I got impatient."
Johnson didn't appear to have any lingering hamstring issue, but it seemed as though the rust from playing just four quarters of actual football since early October would be hard to shake off.