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Bengals fall to Texans, 12-10 on Christmas Eve

The Bengals’ offense looked lifeless for as much of the game as the defense held strong. With young players seeing increased opportunities for the Bengals and a new starting quarterback for the Texans, Saturday night’s game often looked like a preseason matchup, and the Bengals lost after a Randy Bullock missed field goal in the final second of the game.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

If you suffered through the entirety of the Bengals versus Texans Christmas Eve matchup, you’re a true fan or someone who really loves football. A Randy Bullock 43-yard missed field goal ended what was simply a poorly played Saturday night football game. The Bengals lost and the Texans clinched the AFC South, and what happened is just about exactly what we should have expected.

The Bengals’ started off slow on offense (though, you could say they maintained that slowness throughout the game) going three-and-out after two Jeremy Hill runs for a combined -1 yard and an incomplete pass by Andy Dalton. But, the defense answered the call by shutting down the Tom Savage led Texans. Wallace Gilberry and Michael Johnson sacked Savage to force Houston to punt for the first time. Welcome back, Gilberry! And with that, let the punt fest commence.

Gilberry wasn’t done there. On the next Texans offensive drive, Geno Atkins and Gilberry had back-to-back plays with sacks. Where has that defensive line been all year? The Bengals entered the game ranked 24th in sacks in the league with 26 sacks. Will Clarke later on added another sack for the Bengals, as the team totaled four on the evening.

But, the Bengals’ offense was completely off and Kevin Huber punted three times in the first quarter alone. Andrew Whitworth also hurt his arm toward the end of the first quarter and missed a few plays. As he played left guard in place of Clint Boling who was inactive for the game, T.J. Johnson entered in his place for a few snaps.

Cody Core was Dalton’s favorite target early on with six targets in the first quarter alone and another at the start of the second quarter. It’s almost like Dalton was told, ‘no matter what, throw the ball to Core’. In a game where it seemed winning was not the priority and checking out the future was the gameplan, Core was receiving plenty of attention from Dalton. Unfortunately for him, A.J. Bouye was covering him (with ease) and has had a great season, which continued on Saturday.

It took until there were only 10 minutes remaining in the first half for the Bengals to give Rex Burkhead the ball. Once they did, he got the longest gain of any player at that point in the game. It was an 11 yard catch, which was followed up by an 8 yard run. Unfortunately, the drive ended with Jadeveon Clowney completely overpowering Cedric Ogbuehi, who started his first game at left tackle, as Dalton was sacked for a loss of 10 on third down. That forced Huber’s sixth punt of the night.

Former Bengals offensive lineman Willie Anderson hasn’t given up on Ogbuehi yet, so if that gives you any hope for his future, I’ll leave this here:

To end the first half, former Texans draft pick Randy Bullock kicked a 43-yard field goal to give the Bengals the first three points of the game. In the first half, Core was targeted 12 times, catching 7 passes for 35 yards. Brandon LaFell had three catches for 25 yards and Tyler Boyd, who wasn't targeted until late in the second quarter had one catch for 21 yards. Burkhead and Hill ended up with an even number of carries, six each, with Burkhead churning out 17 yards, and Hill only four. The Texans have a strong rushing defense, but having more attempts than yards is simply unacceptable for Hill.;

This pretty much sums up everyone’s thoughts about the first half and its conclusion:

In the first half alone, there were six punts for each team and then the field goal from the Bengals to end 30 minutes of lackluster play. The Texans had -5 passing yards in the half while the Bengals had 111.

But, the Texans came out of the locker room after halftime clearly revived and marched down the field and into the red zone. The Bengals’ defense stood strong and Houston was forced to kick a field goal. They had some help by whacky play calls on the Texans’ part in the red zone.

Hill continued his bad night with a 4-yard run that should have been for more if he hadn’t ran around backward in an attempt to gain more yardage. Two plays later, Ogbuehi was pushed to the side by Whitney Mercilus with complete ease as he got to Dalton for the Texans’ second sack of the night. Ogbuehi, regardless of what Anderson says, is a big issue right now.

Penalties began to pile up in the third quarter, first offensive holding on DeAndre Hopkins, but then a ton on the Bengals, with many being of the ridiculous variety. Adam Jones was flagged for illegal use of hands, then Carlos Dunlap for a facemask call. The the Texans had a false start. And then all on one drive, Margus Hunt was penalized for roughing the passer, Jones was called for defensive pass interference twice (one of which was absurd and really could have been offensive pass interference on Hopkins) and between those calls, Hopkins was called for his second offensive pass interference of the game. But, by the end of the third quarter, Hopkins should have had a third.

Fittingly, the penalty-ridden drive on which Jones had two pass interference penalties led to the Texans’ second field goal of the evening and a 6-3 lead for Houston.

When the Bengals got the ball back, the drive didn’t last long as a pass from Dalton bounced off Boyd’s hands and into the arms of Texans safety Quintin Demps. Luckily, the defense held strong and forced the Texans to punt.

And, what looked like it would be another failed drive to follow that up, ended up resulting in an 86-yard Brandon LaFell touchdown in his return home to Texas, with his family in attendance on Christmas Eve.

It was the Bengals’ first fourth quarter touchdown since Week 8’s game in London against the Redskins and Dalton’s longest touchdown pass of his NFL career.

But, the Texans quickly rallied, scoring a touchdown on the following play. Unfortunately, as soon as the Bengals’ offense got its act together, the defense lost composure and allowed Savage to throw completions for 19 yards, 11 yards, 21 yards and then a 24-yard rushing touchdown. Margus Hunt blocked the extra point that followed, and Vinny Rey ran toward the ball. But, it seemed he forgot he could pick it up and run it back toward the opposite end zone for two points. So, he stood there for too long and didn’t even attempt to score.

When the Bengals’ offense took the field again, Mercilus exposed Jake Fisher and got to Dalton once again for a sack. Fisher had a decent game, for the most part, but there are clearly still growing pains in his second NFL start.

The Bengals tried to retake the lead and almost did. Randy Bullock lined up for a last second 43-yard field goal to give the Bengals what would have been the lead and the win. But, the field goal went wide right and the Bengals fell to 5-9-1 with one game left to play.

At this point, a loss is a win, right?