Foster, defense fuel Texans first playoff win

US Presswire

Brooks Reed and the Houston Texans had plenty to celebrate about after their first postseason victory in franchise history.

After playing their first nine seasons in franchise history without a ticket to the postseason dance, the Houston Texans crashed the playoff party in style with a convincing 31-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three franchises to debut since 1960 had to wait longer for their first playoff appearance than the Texans: the New Orleans Saints (20), Denver Broncos (17) and Atlanta Falcons (12).

The Texans ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak and were one of eight teams (along with the Denver Broncos this year) to reach the playoffs after losing their final three games since the merger. Including Houston, the last four teams to do this have won their first playoff game.

Why the Texans won

Arian Foster rushed for 153 of the team’s 188 yards and reached the end zone twice. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Foster is the fourth player in the last 25 years to run for at least 150 yards and two scores in his postseason debut.

150 Rush TD, 2 TD
Postseason Debut Last 25 Years

Foster was at his best when finding open space near the sidelines, averaging 10.1 yards per rush with two touchdowns outside the tackles.

In 13 regular season games, Foster averaged just 4.7 yards per rush and had just two scores outside the tackles.

Foster did most of his damage before the initial hit, gaining 102 of his 153 rushing yards prior to contact. The Bengals entered this game having allowed the fewest yards per rush before contact in the regular season (2.0).

Turning point

With the score tied 10-10, J.J. Watt intercepted Andy Dalton in the closing minute of the first half and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown to give Houston a lead it would not relinquish.

Watt is the first rookie with an interception return for a touchdown in the postseason since Tommy Polley of the 2001 Rams. Watt is also the fifth defensive lineman in the last 30 seasons to return an interception for a score in a playoff game, according to Elias.

Why the Bengals lost

Andy Dalton struggled in his first postseason game, throwing three interceptions. Each of the interceptions came when targeting A.J. Green, matching the total number he threw during the regular season when targeting Green.

Andy Dalton by Pass Rushers
Saturday vs Texans

The Texans’ defense rushed four or fewer pass rushers on 37 of Dalton’s 47 dropbacks, and Dalton struggled against this standard pressure.

Each of Dalton’s three interceptions and each of the three times he was sacked by Houston came against four or fewer pass rushers.

Stat of the Game

The Bengals lost their fourth straight postseason game and haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the longest active drought in the NFL, according to Elias.

Cincinnati has actually scored first in each game during this playoff losing streak. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the Bengals are the first team in NFL postseason history to play four consecutive playoff games, score first in each, and lose each of those games.

What’s next

The Texans advance to the Divisional Round where they will face the Baltimore Ravens as, they try to become the seventh team to win at least two games in its first postseason appearance.

The bad news for Texans fans is that Houston has lost all five of its games against the Ravens in franchise history, including a 29-14 decision in Week 6 this season.

The good news is that the last team to win in its franchise’s playoff debut was the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who went on to win the Super Bowl that same season.