1) Andy Dalton Needs To Step Up. After last night's performance, there's going to a percentage of Cincinnati's fans joining the crowd that were already frustrated with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. In my opinion it's a fair question to ask what we have with Dalton at this point; not critical, but we have to see more than what we've seen out of this offense in the past quarter of the season.
With 2:57 remaining in the game the Bengals have third and 11 from the Texans 36-yard line. Dalton overthrows an open A.J. Green, who had beaten two defenders into the endzone, which would have given Cincinnati a 20-19 lead. Cincinnati went for it on fourth down and Dalton threw the football to a route that was five yards short of the first down marker.
Dalton has yet to throw a touchdown pass in the postseason against four interceptions and a career passer rating of 48.6.
2) A.J. Green Needs to be Big-Time. In a strange offensive philosophy -- or an ridiculously overwhelming fear of Johnathan Joseph -- when receiver A.J. Green, your top playmaker on offense, failed to post his first reception until the 10:27 mark in the third quarter. Eventually Green was targeted 11 times, all in the second half, posting only five receptions for 80 yards receiving.
Thanks to a combination of Cincinnati's offense ignoring him for two quarters and Joseph's play at cornerback, Green was largely irrelevant on Saturday.
3) Combination of Patience and Protection. The Houston Texans defense generated two sacks, three quarterback hits and 12 quarterback pressures during the game. Yet while watching Saturday you'd have thought the offensive line was the worst offensive line in the history of offensive lines.
No. The line didn't play well but Dalton simply can't handle pressure, posting a passer rating of 47.1 for the entire season when faced with pressure. Last night was no different, often overreacting to intense pressure, bringing the football down to look for a lane. In the NFL quarterbacks are going to be under pressure; it's how quarterbacks handle that pressure that sets them apart.
Whereas Dalton brings his eyes and the football down to look for rushing lanes, the better quarterbacks keep their eyes open. It's the greatest "must work on" note in Ken Zampese and Jay Gruden's to-do list this offseason.
4) Stop Arian Foster Before He Gets Started. Not even close. Arian Foster was clearly the Texans primary gameplan, rushing seven times for 35 yards in the first quarter. When the second quarter rolled around, the Texans had already generated 54 yards rushing.
Foster added another nine carries for 51 yards rushing in the second quarter. By this time, an ineffective Bengals offense and sustained Texans running game wore the defense out even before the second half started.
Foster finished the game with 140 yards rushing on 32 carries, helping the Texans offense stay on the field for nearly 39 minutes.
5) Score Quickly. The Cincinnati Bengals offense would finally reach midfield with under two minutes remaining in the first half. And it wasn't the offense that put Cincinnati on the board in the first quarter; it was a pick-six by Leon Hall, giving Cincinnati a momentary lead in the second quarter.
Beyond that the Bengals never threatened the Texans, despite the closeness of the score. I read a comment either on the site or twitter that summed it up accurately. This was one of the more deceptive blowouts of all-time. Cincinnati just wasn't into it.