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(Sunday, December 11th)
Final Score: Houston 20, Cincinnati 19
Cincinnati, OH (Sports Network) - The Texans clinched the first playoff berth in franchise history Sunday, and neither Matt Schaub nor Andre Johnson were on the field.
No, it was rookie quarterback T.J. Yates who completed a six-yard pass to Kevin Walter with two seconds to play, giving Houston a 20-19 victory over Cincinnati.
The victory was the Texans' seventh in a row and improved their record to 10-3. They clinched the AFC South shortly afterward, when the Titans lost to the Saints and fell to 7-6.
Houston's streak is an improbable run during which it has used three quarterbacks. Schaub, the team's starting quarterback for the last five years, landed on injured reserve with a foot injury suffered during a Week 10 win against the Buccaneers. Then, backup Matt Leinart suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 12 against Jacksonville, leaving Yates to be the quarterback.
"I'm kind of a low-key guy," Yates said. "Sometimes I don't feel I get up enough for certain situations, but it kind of turns around in situations like that. I'm pretty level-headed."
The Texans also haven't had Johnson, their star receiver -- and, with Schaub, a face of the franchise -- for much of the streak. He has missed seven games this season because of hamstring problems.
But Yates has been capable under center, leading the Texans past the Falcons last week in his first career start. On Sunday he passed for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end Owen Daniels has picked up the slack with Johnson out, and caught seven passes for 100 yards Sunday. Walter finished with six receptions for 76 yards and the decisive score.
Thanks to them, the Texans are in the playoffs for the first time since coming into the league in 2002.
Houston beat the Bengals (7-6) Sunday only after overcoming a 16-3 halftime deficit.
The Texans started their comeback with a defensive play. On the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Connor Barwin sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and forced a fumble.
Houston took over at the Cincinnati 17 and reached the end zone in four plays, the last of which was Yates' six-yard pass to tight end Joel Dreessen.
But after that, the Texans endured a stretch when they didn't play especially well, and certainly not well enough to win.
Cincinnati's Mike Nugent kicked a 28-yard field goal with two minutes left in the third quarter, and Yates fumbled the ball away 90 seconds into the fourth. Houston's next drive started off badly, with a fumble by running back Arian Foster.
However, the Texans forced the Bengals to fumble the ball right back and were still within striking distance, down only nine points with more than 11 minutes to play.
While they used up more than six minutes of the clock just to get a 33-yard field goal by Neil Rackers, the kick got them within a touchdown.
And after the Houston defense forced the Bengals to punt, Yates led the Texans to the end zone.
They took over at their own 20-yard line with 2:33 to play and moved into Cincinnati territory with Yates' 19-yard pass to Walter. He later lost five yards on a sack, but converted a long third down with a 17-yard scramble.
After spiking the ball with 24 seconds to play, Yates twice threw incomplete. But Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was whistled for holding Jacoby Jones' arm on the second incompletion, setting the Texans up at the Cincinnati six-yard line.
Two plays and one Bengals timeout later, Yates found Walter open over the middle for the winning score and a stunning finish.
Dalton threw for 189 yards and a touchdown during a partially successful first half for the Bengals.
After Rackers kicked a 46-yarder about five minutes into the game, the Bengals got a 22-yarder from Nugent. He kicked a 47-yard try later in the quarter, but Cincinnati had a good chance to reach the end zone in both instances.
His first field goal came after the Bengals had a first down at the Texans' one-yard line. But they wasted that opportunity thanks to a false start penalty, and couldn't get their offense going again.
Cincinnati then had good field position -- at the Houston 25 -- after intercepting Yates. But it lost four yards before turning to Nugent again.
"We had a couple situations again today in the red zone where we don't get touchdowns," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "That ends up being the difference. For us, right now, offensively is us finishing off drives."
The Bengals did dominate the second quarter to take control.
The Texans were threatening to score after a 10-yard run by Ben Tate put them at the one-yard line. But on the next play, he lost two yards and fumbled the ball away. Despite starting at their own three, the Bengals managed to score.
The 97-yard drive included a crucial decision. Facing a 4th-and-3 at the Houston 35, the Bengals went for it and picked up a first down thanks to Dalton's 11-yard pass to A.J. Green.
Cincinnati scored on Dalton's 17-yard pass to Jerome Simpson on third down with 3:02 left in the half. The drive lasted nearly eight minutes.
Rackers' 47-yard try in the final minute went wide right, and despite the fact that it left only 30 seconds on the clock, the Bengals managed to score again. Dalton's long passes to Andrew Hawkins and Jermaine Gresham set up Nugent's 49-yarder, which gave Cincinnati a 16-3 lead at the break.
The Texans had never won 10 games in a season before this year...Tate ended with 67 yards on eight carries...Yates completed 26-of-44 passes...Dalton was 16-of-28...Cedric Benson ran for 91 yards for Cincinnati, which lost its second consecutive game.
12/11 19:26:04 ET
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