Houston's offense struggled in Ryan Mallett's first start at NRG Stadium as the Texans fell 22-13 to the Cincinnati Bengals.
"(We) didn't play good enough, really in all three phases," head coach Bill O'Brien said after the game. "I just told the football team that. We've got a lot of things we need to correct, get in there tomorrow, get back to work. Still a lot to play for and we need to get back to work tomorrow and get these things corrected."
The Texans lost the time of possession battle, with the offense on the field for just 20:50, compared to Cincinnati's 39:10. The Bengals defense held Houston to just one field goal in the first half and picked off Mallett on the first play of the second half. Mallett was 21-of-45 for 189 yards and one interception.
Alfred Blue, starting for the injured Arian Foster, rushed for 46 yards on 16 carries but was tackled in the endzone for a safety in the second quarter. Jonathan Grimes added two rushes for 16 yards.
"We practiced against everything that they showed us and we just didn't do a good enough job of getting it done in the running game, coaching-wise and playing-wise," O'Brien said. "We just couldn't run the ball."
Johnathan Joseph scored the Texans lone touchdown of the day on a 60-yard interception return.
A.J. Green caught a career-high 12 passes 121 yards for Cincinnati. Andy Dalton completed 24 of 35 passes for 233 yards for one touchdown and one interception in his first win over the Texans.
"All day long, they got the ball out of their hands extremely quickly," J.J. Watt said. "It doesn't matter what you do up front when they get the ball out that quick. So give credit to them. They put together a good game."
Watt finished the day with seven tackles, one for a loss, one quarterback hit, and one pass defensed. Darryl Morris led the Texans defense with 10 tackles, one for a loss, and three passes defensed.
Dalton's six-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu gave Cincinnati an early 7-0 lead after a 13-play, 94-yard drive.
Early in the second quarter, the Texans defense stopped Dalton at the one-yard line on fourth-and-one. Houston regained possession but Alfred Blue was tackled in the end zone for a safety. Cincinnati extended its lead to 9-0 with 9:02 remaining in the second quarter.
Mallett and the Texans gained some momentum on the following offensive series which ended in a 36-yard field goal by Randy Bullock. Mallett threw four-consecutive passes to DeAndre Hopkins for 31 yards and Grimes extended the drive after picking up 8 yards on fourth-and-2. Houston trailed 9-6 at halftime, following the 15-play, 67-yard scoring drive.
Following a 23-return by Danieal Manning to start the second half, Mallett threw his first interception deep in Houston territory. The pass, intended for Keshawn Martin, was picked off by Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga. Jeremy Hill scored on a 2-yard touchdown run six plays later. Cincinnati led 16-3, with 11:48 left in the third quarter.
The Texans put up 10 points in the third quarter, first when Johnathan Joseph intercepted Dalton on the Bengals next possession and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown against his former team.
"We had an all-out blitz," Joseph said of the play. "I think we did a great job of disguising it and at the last second, everybody kind of walking to their positions. I think it was a great call, mixing it up and giving them a different look. I just made a great break on the ball and finished it off with some great blocking and the guys guided me into the endzone."
Bullock then added his second field goal of the day, a 25-yard kick.
Cincinnati's Mike Nugent added a fourth-quarter field goal after a 17-play, 71-yard drive that lasted 8:00. The Texans trailed 19-13 with 8:48 left in the game.
Mallett found DeAndre Hopkins on a deep, 32-yard pass on third-and four, but a challenge by Cincinnati overturned the play. Hopkins made the catch along the sideline, but was unable to get his left foot in bounds.
"I was just trying to track the ball down," Hopkins said. "I didn't see the safety coming over. It is one of those plays that I have to make. I have to come out in practice and work on that."
Houston's defense held the Bengals to three-and-out on their next series to regain possession but a sack on Mallett ended the drive.
Nugent added a 49-yard field goal with 1:55 left in the game for the final score of the game.
Mallett, with no timeouts remaining, orchestrated 16-play, 70-yard drive but was unable to score as time expired.
Houston falls to 5-6 on the season and will host the Tennessee Titans in Week 13.