I wasn't sure that I could feel any more exhilarated than I felt when Tank Dell caught the game winning TD pass against Tampa Bay last week.
I now know that it's possible after that WACKINESS that we just saw at Paycor Stadium.
Texans win…again! I've been to Cincinnati for three games. 2015 on MNF - the T.J. Yates Comeback Special/DeAndre Hopkins TD catch in an upset win over the 8-0 Bengals. 2017 - the "We have 25 guys on the injury report and played four days ago" Thursday night 13-9 win.
And, then, today, what an absolute jaw-dropping, heart pounding win over one of last year's AFC Championship Game combatants. Let's dive into my Harris Hits because I'm going to start with a comment I didn't think I was going to make just six hours ago.
The Texans truly DOM-I-NAT-ED the action in this game for most of the first 45 minutes. Very late third quarter/most of the fourth quarter was a little wacky and the Texans GAVE the Bengals some opportunities that they didn't really earn, in all honesty. At one point in the third quarter, I looked up at the scoreboard and the Texans had 386 yards to the Bengals 114. After Devin 'Motor' Singletary's TD in the third quarter, the Texans had a two score lead, had completely taken over the game on both sides and even gave away two turnovers. How big is the deficit if the Texans don't botch a handoff on a fourth and one in the first quarter and then a pass is accurately labeled a pass, instead of a fumble in the first half? Or the TD throw to Robert Woods stayed a TD like it should have. Credit to the Bengals - they fought back and Joe Burrow is all that and a bag of chips.
But, I'm cool, VERY cool, with our guy. 7 is pretty damn good.
Since I'm there, let's dive into how GREAT Texans rookie QB C.J. Stroud was yet again. When the Bengals got into the low red zone with the score 27-24, I actually was pretty calm. The Texans had three time outs and given the fact that the Bengals could run just three plays, the Texans were going to have time to do something, anything after a Bengals score. It was just a matter of whether they would need a field goal to win or a TD to win. The Texans finally got their break when Bengals WR Tyler Boyd dropped a sure TD pass on third down with 1:40 or so on the clock.
Either way, Stroud was going to have a chance to do it again, one week later. On the first play of the game winning drive, he hit Tank Dell with one of his best throws of the game - right in his hands, but Tank couldn't hold on. Two plays later, Stroud faced 3rd and six with 1:14 left on the clock. An incompletion and the Bengals would've had one final drive of their own. But, Stroud threw a DIME to Dalton Schultz for about 20 yards and a key first down. Two plays later with 0:15 seconds remaining, Stroud hit WR Noah Brown on an awesome clear out route to get the Texans down to the 20-yard line for K Matt Ammendola's game winner.
C.J. made his only mistake late in the fourth quarter on an interception to Cam Taylor-Britt that kept the Bengals in the game. But, minus that one ill-advised throw, Stroud was brilliant throughout the entire game. He didn't have to buy himself time in the pocket but when he did, he created magic. With the running game finally clicking, C.J. made the most of bootlegs and keepers all day long. He finished 23 for 39 for 356 yards, one TD and even more believers throughout Houston, the nation and, of course, in Cincinnati.
Keep in mind that the Texans were without EIGHT players, not including K Ka'imi Fairbairn, who was placed on IR on Saturday. Nico Collins, Dameon Pierce, Brevin Jordan, Andrew Beck, Jimmie Ward, Henry To'o To'o and Jake Hansen were all out. I've never seen that many Texans out of any one game and still the Texans persevered and fought through those absences for the win.
It's tough to think what this team would be without Noah Brown. Since he returned to the lineup, he's had a 31+ yard completion in every game. Against New Orleans, he had a key crossing route for a big first down on a TD scoring drive. He was the only receiver that put any pressure on the Carolina Panthers in the Texans loss in Charlotte. Then, after lighting up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brown did something only two Texans WR have done in history. He caught seven passes for 172 yards, including a key catch on the last offensive play of the game. What Noah did today was register consecutive games of 150+ yards receiving in the Texans two wins. Only Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins have done that in Texans history.
That's the list.
SIX of Brown's catches went for 20+ yards. SIX! I got a little worried on his final catch that he was going to continue to fight for more yards and run out the clock. But, it was that effort that got the ball down to the 20-yard line for the game winner. Brown was just awesome on Sunday…yet again, and these last two performances will rank right up there with the greatest WRs that ever laced them up for the Texans.
There are so many football heroes on this day but the fact that the Texans got the running game rolling was a major reason why we're flying home with a W. Devin 'Motor' Singletary went OFF with a career high 150 yards rushing, including one TD, on 30 carries. He found holes throughout the day. He made Bengals S Nick Scott miss like three times when the two were one-on-one in a hole. I mean, And 1 type of moves. Dead leg moves. He ran through weak tackle attempts. Motor was ridiculously good and his OL got up into black jerseys and moved guys off the ball (more on them in a bit). With Motor's 150 on the ground and C.J. 356 passing, the Texans finished with a whopping 544 yards of total offense. Holy cow.
The offensive line put on a show today. The Bengals had one sack for no yards so is that really even a sack? The Bengals only had four QB hits. So, one sack for no yards, just one TFL, only four QB hits, 188 yards rushing, a season high, and 544 yards of total offense. LT, Tytus, Michael D, Shaq and G Fant had themselves a day and provided C.J. all kinds of time to throw. The RBs and TEs helped out tremendously well against three man rush, four man rush, five man pressure and all out blitzes. But, that quintet was outstanding. OUTSTANDING! That includes John Metchie III peeling back to block Trey Hendrickson on a bootleg on a huge completion to Noah Brown. That includes Robert Woods throwing a massive run block on the safety on a Singletary run for big yards. That includes Dalton Schultz's pancake on Singletary's TD run…and many more that I didn't mention.
After the game, my postgame Player of the Game interview was with DT Sheldon Rankins. Without his efforts on Sunday, the Texans wouldn't have gotten this win. Rankins was back in the lineup after missing a couple of weeks and it was like he made the Bengals OL pay for time missed. He put Bengals OL on their wallets on his pass rush throughout the day. He finished with three sacks, a career high, and could've had a couple of more as well.
On one of his sacks, he knocked C Ted Karras nearly three yards backwards, then re-engaged with Karras as Burrow moved up in the pocket. Then, Rankins tossed him aside and grabbed Burrow with one arm for the sack. Later in the game, Rankins rushed from the left side and nearly threw G Alex Cappa right into Joe Burrow's lap. Then, Cappa reset and Rankins ripped right through him for another Rankins' sack. He was brilliant. His fellow DT Maliek Collins worked OG Cordell Volson throughout the game as well. That was as dominant of an interior DL performance as I can remember in a long time.
DE Jon Greenard added another sack to his total this year. He finished with one sack and two TFLs, but his CONSTANT pressure on Joe Burrow had the Bengals Pro Bowl QB escaping the pocket repeatedly. One of those led to a Burrow to Ja'Marr Chase 64-yard touchdown but that's not really the point. Greenard gave LT Orlando Brown Jr. fits with power, long arm, inside moves, rips underneath on the edge and any other move that Greenard used to get to Burrow. I don't know what his pass rush win rate was, but it was pretty darn high based on just watching the game in person.
This will go down as one of my favorite wins for many reasons, but one reason is that EVERYBODY contributed to the outcome. How about DeAndre Houston-Carson, eight year veteran, who re-arrived in Houston just two weeks ago having to start at safety and then coming up with a pick in the fourth quarter? With the Bengals big-time passing game, there was so much concern about the Texans safety situation, but DH-C played a solid game and had that one key turnover.
How about CB Shaq Griffin who came up with Burrow's other interception with just under four minutes left in the game? Then, he intelligently took a knee to move the ball out to the 25-yard line.
How about veteran starting CB Steven Nelson? He didn't practice all week long and the consensus was that Nelson was only going to get on the field in an emergency capacity. Yet, in the second quarter, there was Nelson out on the perimeter at his typical CB spot to help out the defense. Didn't practice one minute this week yet showed up when the Texans needed him most.
How about DE Will Anderson Jr? Forced one holding penalty and racked up two QB hits on Burrow. He was a short half step behind Greenard on his sack and had Greenard not gotten there, Will was going to handle that for his third sack of the year.
How about clutch TE Dalton Schultz? Third down and six, last drive, just over a minute remaining. GOTTA HAVE IT SITUATION! Where does C.J. Stroud look? 86. 25 yard gain over the middle, taking a wicked lick at the end of it.
How about DB Tavierre Thomas leading the team in tackles?
How about RB Dare Ogunbowale registering the HIT of the Year on the Texans kickoff just prior to the end of the first half…and another tackle on special teams in the fourth quarter?
How about WR Xavier Hutchinson picking up another explosive run (17 yards) to set up C.J. Stroud's rushing TD early in the fourth quarter?
Finally, how about K Matt Ammendola? Three for three on field goals. Three for three on extra points. Ammendola last attempted a field goal in a regular season game on October 16, 2022. I'll do the math for you…that's well over a year ago. Yet, there he was…Paycor Stadium…38 yards away from a magical finish in his first NFL game in over a year…game on his foot.
And he nailed it.
Alright, that's going to do it. What a day. Time to come home and ROCK NRG Stadium. Three straight weeks at home and this team is ready to respond. Again.
View the best photos from the Week 10 matchup between the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals.