The Cincinnati Bengals extended their season by at least one game on Sunday, thanks to an applied scenario that gave Cincinnati the final playoff berth. Their opponent will be the AFC South Champions, the Houston Texans. And if one remembers, the Bengals had their week 14 game against the Texans sealed by the fourth quarter.
Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates stood in shotgun with 13:44 remaining in the fourth quarter. Down by 19 points on Cincinnati's 32-yard line, the Texans elect to go for it on fourth and two, which should have been the play of the game. Yates took the shotgun snap and quickly surveyed his options.
Cincinnati's secondary, playing man cover one, blanked all four route in play. Robert Geathers, cut down at the line of scrimmage, recovered with an unobstructed lane towards the quarterback. When Yates realized that his situation was suddenly dire, he shuffled around inside the pocket in the hopes of finding a running lane. Within seconds Geathers closed and with Geno Atkins' help, Yates was sacked forcing the Texans to turn the football over on downs.
The Bengals offense returned to the field with 13:31 remaining in the fourth quarter and a comfortable nine-point lead.
Following a three and out by Cincinnati's offense, the Texans would turn the football over on their very first play from scrimmage after a Rey Maualuga stick on Arian Foster forced a fumble. Geno Atkins recovered the the football, returning it nine yards before he losing it himself. After several failed attempts by the Bengals defense to recapture the football, Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston recovered it on Houston's two-yard line. Since there was a change of possession, Houston was awarded a new set of downs.
The Texans took advantage, putting together an 83-yard drive on 13 plays to reduce Cincinnati's nine-point lead to six following Neil Rackers 33-yard field goal. The Bengals offense went into clock-killing mode, running Benson on four of their next seven plays. When Cincinnati failed to pick up another first down, Kevin Huber punted the football 44 yards and the Texans were back on offense with 2:33 remaining in the game from their own 20-yard line.
Not only did the Texans move the football, they made big plays during critical moments. Or from a Bengals fan perspective, took advantage of a suddenly sleepy defense. Eventually the Texans were stuck with a third and 15 from Cincinnati's 40-yard line with only 44 seconds remaining. Yates scrambled out of the pocket and picked up 17 yards, converting a huge first down. Several plays later Adam Jones was called for a pass interference, negating an incomplete pass on third and ten. Two plays later Yates connected on Kevin Walter's shallow crossing route for the game-tying touchdown that was won following Rackers point after attempt.
If Brandon Johnson recognizes Walter's route underneath, stopping the wide receiver before he reaches the endzone, the game is over with an expiring clock. If Adam Jones isn't called for a pass interference, if the defense doesn't allow a 17-yard scramble on third and 15, Cincinnati's chances for a win raise significantly.
Thanks to a conservative offensive game-plan to kill the clock and a soft secondary that opened routes for Houston to put together not one, but two 13-play scoring drives in the fourth quarter giving the Texans the win.
There's two stories here. The Cincinnati Bengals can beat the Houston Texans and the Cincinnati Bengals can also beat themselves.