The Cincinnati Bengals have played a team from Houston since their earliest days in the NFL, dating back to a 1968 matchup between the Bengals and Houston Oilers. That series perhaps reached its peak in the last 1980’s when Sam Wyche and Jerry Glanville were coaching the two teams, and brought a fiery edge to those matchups, with no love lost between the two teams.
But the Bengals are not facing that Houston team. The Bengals were 28-27-1 against that Houston team before they moved to Tennessee after the 1996 season. They briefly became the Tennessee Oilers, before ultimately becoming today’s Tennessee Titans.
The Bengals are facing a different Houston team – the Houston Texans, who entered the league in 2002 as an expansion franchise. And, they played like an expansion franchise, going 24-56 in their first five seasons. The Bengals reeled off three straight victories against the Texans while they were in full expansion mode.
The Texans got better as a team, but stuck in a division with Peyton Manning in his prime leading the Indianapolis Colts, they had an uphill battle for a playoff spot. They ultimately reached the playoffs in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, playing against and beating the Bengals in the first round each year. Since those two playoff years, the Texans have failed to return to the playoffs, going 14-26 over the last two and a half seasons.
After their initial 3-0 string of wins over the Texans, the Bengals lost five straight. That streak was finally brought to an end last year, when the Bengals held on for a 22-13 victory in Houston during the regular season.
Basking in a franchise best 8-0 start, I’m really not keen on reliving the ugly memories of those playoff losses to the Texans. So we’ll skip past that old news, and focus on the most recent game, which ended the Bengals' five game losing streak to the Texans.
It was Nov 23, 2014 and the Bengals won the game 22-13.
The Bengals were facing a Texans team missing starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Pro-Bowl running back Arian foster, in a game where the Bengals’ defense did not allow a touchdown to the Texans' offense.
After exchanging punts to begin the game, the Bengals strung together a 13 play, 90 yard drive culminating in a 6 yard touchdown catch from Andy Dalton to Mohamed Sanu.
After the Texans punted on the ensuing drive, the Bengals drove down inside the Texans' 10 yard line. With fourth and one on the Texans’ one yard line, Marvin Lewis and Hue Jackson had a decision to make. Instead of opting for the easy chip shot, they decided to go for the touchdown. They avoided the obvious up-the-gut push with Jeremy Hill, instead deciding to throw the ball. Dalton’s pass to A.J. Green failed, and the Bengals turned the ball over on the one yard line.
With the Texans pinned back at their 1-yard line, Geno Atkins made sure the Bengals came away with some points, by tackling Alfred Blue for a safety.
On their final drive of the half, the Texans managed to get a field goal, and cut to Bengals’ lead to 9-3 at halftime.
The Bengals built their lead back up on a two yard touchdown run from Jeremy Hill. Up 16-3, the Bengals looked to extend their lead on their next possession. Unfortunately former Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph had other plans, as he intercepted Dalton’s pass intended for Green, and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown.
The Texans followed up the pick 6 with a field goal, and cut the lead to 16-13 heading into the 4th quarter. A short field goal pushed the Bengals' lead to 19-13, and a key 49-yard field goal with two minutes to go, gave the Bengals a two score lead of 22-13.
The Texans consumed the final two minutes of the game driving the field, but stalled without scoring.
Looking ahead to Monday night...
The Texans are struggling at 3-5 and again missing Arian Foster. But in an underachieving AFC South, they are only 0.5 games out of first place, behind a disappointing Indianapolis Colts team.
With the Texans’ running backs struggling to the tune of 3.2 yards per carry, and only two rushing touchdowns in eight games, they have leaned heavily on their starter, turned backup, turned starter again, Brian Hoyer, who has passed for an effective 263 yards per game, with 13 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions, and a 97.1 quarterback rating.
The Texans have won two of their last three games, and are fighting to become relevant in a division where they are very close to being in first place. Of course, both of those Texans’ win were against teams who are both 2-6 (Jaguars and Titans).
The Texans have faced two teams with winning records, and have lost both of those games. Their other six games have been against teams with losing records (17-32 combined record), against which the Texans have gone 3-3.
It would seem to be a winnable home game for the Bengals, with Dalton’s primetime failures perhaps exorcised via his solid performance on Thursday night against the Browns in Week 9.