Sheldon Rankins didn't just have a big game on Sunday in Cincinnati. He did something he hadn't since his days as an Eastside Eagle in Covington, Georgia.
"My last three-sack game was high school," Rankins said after the game in the locker room.
The defensive tackle dropped Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow thrice in the Texans' 30-27 victory. It was part of a 4-sack performance by the Texans defense, which also picked off a pair of Burrow passes, and stymied the Cincinnati offense for much of the first half.
Rankins said it was a good matchup for the Texans' defensive front against the Bengals offensive line, and that his familiarity with playing Cincinnati last year as a New York Jet was helpful this week in preparing.
"Very familiar with a lot of things we would get and just went through my process through the week," Rankins said. "Every one isn't going to be a sack or a hit or something like that. But you don't deviate from the plan. You trust the process."
View the best photos from the Week 10 matchup between the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals.
The process on Sunday saw Rankins get to work early, often, and late. He brought Burrow down for a sack and a loss of six yards in the second quarter, and the Bengals were forced to punt from their end of the field.
In the third quarter, with the Bengals facing a 3rd-and-9 at their own 26-yard line, Rankins' strip-sack of Burrow pushed Cincinnati back to its own 13-yard line after a Bengals' offensive lineman pounced on the fumble. Another punt ensued, and the Texans answered with a Devin Singletary touchdown run three plays later.
In the waning moments, on the first play out of the 2-minute warning, the Bengals were in a 1st-and-Goal setup at the Houston 7-yard line. But Rankins wrecked the play, driving Burrow into the turf for the third time on the day and moving Cincinnati seven yards backward. They wound up kicking a field goal to tie the ballgame, rather than getting in the end zone for what would've given them a lead.
Defensive end Jonathan Greenard, who had the other Texans sack in the game, overlapped with Rankins in college at Louisville. The younger Greenard is a fan of Rankins, who he views like a big brother.
"I was so happy he got his first 3-sack game in his career," Greenard said. "You know what he's about when he steps on that field."
Rankins and the Texans return to Houston this evening and will host the Cardinals next Sunday at NRG Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon CT.