What it means: The Texans knocked off the Bengals in the first game of the playoffs for the second consecutive season and advanced to a divisional-round game next weekend at New England. Cincinnati still has not won a playoff game since the 1990 season.
What I liked: Star power got it done for the home team. Running back Arian Foster became the first player in NFL history to top 100 rushing yards in his first three playoff games. In combination, receiver Andre Johnson (four catches for 62 yards) and tight end Owen Daniels (nine for 91) were big in a game in which the run game and defense carried the day. Matt Schaub played better than he had recently, hitting on 29 of 38 passes for 262 yards with a pick-six and no touchdowns. Defensive end J.J. Watt had a sack and a couple of batted passes.
What I didn’t like: Schaub gave the Bengals a touchdown with a bad throw for James Casey that corner Leon Hall picked off and took 21 yards in a tightrope walk down the sideline to the end zone. The Texans had a lot of chances in the red zone but really took only one crack into the end zone, an inaccurate pass that Johnson should have corralled but did not.
Quality: The Bengals aren’t a good third-down offense, and the Texans did a great job making sure that stayed the case. Cincinnati was 0-for-9 on third down.
He’s back: Cornerback Johnathan Joseph has had an inconsistent season during which he has been hampered by a groin and hamstring injury. He played a very good game Saturday, with a key interception on a pass on which A.J. Green stopped running, and with a lot of tight coverage.
What’s next: The Texans return to New England on Jan. 13. They lost a Monday night game there, 42-14, on Dec. 10. It’s not unprecedented for the Patriots to lose at home to a team they’d beaten badly not too long before. It happened with the Jets in 2010. The Patriots crushed New York 45-3 on Dec. 6, 2010, then lost at Gillette Stadium 28-21 in the divisional round of the playoffs.