Friday, January 6, 2012
Final Word: Bengals at Texans
By Jamison Hensley
Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's Bengals-Texans wild-card game:
Ending playoff droughts: While the Texans are in the playoffs for the first time in their nine-year existence, the Bengals are enduring a much longer wait. Cincinnati has the longest active NFL streak without a playoff victory, going 20 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Bengals' last postseason victory came in the 1990 wild-card playoffs against Houston -- and that's the Oilers, not the Texans. On Saturday, Cincinnati will look to end that draught that has spanned 7,768 days. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is trying to end his own personal losing streak in the postseason. If he falls to the Texans, Lewis would become the first head coach to lose his first three playoff games since Wade Phillips dropped his first four before earning a postseason win in 2009.
Marvin Lewis is aiming to avoid seeing his personal playoff losing streak hit three games.
Making the tackle: If the Bengals can stop the Texans and the NFL's second-ranked running attack, they have a good shot at winning. To do so, Cincinnati has to fix a run defense that has crumbled down the stretch. In the first 10 games of the season, Cincinnati allowed 88.6 yards rushing per game. In the past six, the Bengals have given up 131.5. The run defense bottomed out in the regular-season finale when it got lit up by the Ravens' Ray Rice for 191 yards on the ground. The problem comes down to tackling, or the lack thereof. According to ESPN S&I, the Bengals are allowing 1.9 yards after contact per rush, seventh-worst in the NFL. With running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the Texans lead the league with 1,133 yards after contact this season.
Avoiding the swat team: Elias Sports Bureau confirms that this marks the first postseason game since the 1970 merger to have rookie quarterbacks starting for both teams (Andy Dalton for Cincinnati and T.J. Yates for Houston). Dalton rarely has to worry about getting knocked down. The Bengals allowed the fourth-fewest sacks in the NFL this season. His biggest concern is having his passes knocked down. Dalton had the most passes batted or defended this season (79), including eight against the Texans on Dec. 11, according to ESPN S&I. That's not unusual for Houston, which led all defenses in defending passes (94).