Rapid Reaction: Houston Texans

HOUSTON -- A few thoughts from the Houston Texans' 22-13 loss Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals at Reliant Stadium:

What it means: The Texans' playoff chances took a hit with this loss, as the division-leading Indianapolis Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans are certainly not out of it yet, which is something we'll take a look at next week with the playoff machine. Still, this does make a wild-card slot more difficult for Houston to achieve and knocks it two games back from the Colts in the AFC South.

Stock watch: After a strong outing in which he was kept clean in his first start, Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett struggled a bit in his second game. The Bengals got much better pressure on Mallett than the Browns did last week. He completed 21 of his 45 passes, and several of those incompletions were thrown high. He threw an interception to start the second half. He also threw one to start the first half, but it was negated by a Bengals penalty that kept the Texans' opening drive alive. A bit of a regression in a quarterback's second career start is normal: It happens to most players when they face a team that's more prepared for them.

Running game stalled: The Texans were without starting running back Arian Foster for a second straight game. Foster, who suffered a groin injury Nov. 2, missed his third game of the season. Last week against the Cleveland Browns, it didn't matter. The offensive line dominated the Browns' front and Alfred Blue rushed for 156 yards. This week, the Texans faced a more aggressive Bengals team and rushed for only 64 yards total.

Game ball: Johnathan Joseph energized the Texans with an interception returned for a touchdown on a third-and-7 intended for AJ Green. Joseph's play cut the Texans' deficit from 13 to 6 and marked a turning point in the way the Texans' defense played.

What's next: Back to division play for the Texans. They'll be at home against the Tennessee Titans, but they haven't won at home since Sept. 28.