CINCINNATI -The Texans finally put together a 60-minute effort, and the result was a convincing road victory that moved their record to 3-3. Behind a huge game from quarterback Matt Schaub and a stout performance from an improving defense, the Texans led for almost the entirety of their 28-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Schaub threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns, including two to tight end Owen Daniels. The others went to running back Steve Slaton and wide receiver Jacoby Jones.
The Bengals entered the game at 4-1 and atop the AFC North after three consecutive come-from-behind victories. The Texans had dropped below .500 last week with a last-minute loss at Arizona.
"It's huge," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of the victory. "We try not to get caught up in the other team's record, but our team knew it was a big game.
"We came in here against a heck of a football team. We made our share of mistakes but were able to come out on top."
Rookie linebacker Brian Cushing had the best game of his promising young career, tallying nine tackles, two forced fumbles and a game-clinching interception. In the second half, Frank Bush's defense held the Bengals scoreless and allowed just 78 total yards. They gave up only six yards in the third quarter.
The Texans forced the Bengals into five three-and-outs on 13 posessions, and they shut down Cedric Benson, the NFL's leading rusher. Benson scored in the second quarter but gained just 44 yards on 16 carries (2.8 avg.).
"We weren't Ietting Cedric get out on us," said linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who had a team-high 12 tackles. "We just had that consistency throughout the game where they didn't have a lot of big plays on us and we were pretty much holding them.
"That's what I've seen in our defense that has grown a lot, being able to get off the field on third down a lot more than we did in the past."
The Texans gained 472 yards of offense. Slaton had 102 yards receiving and 43 rushing, and Andre Johnson had a game-high 135 receiving yards.
The Texans' offensive explosion started on their first play from scrimmage, when Johnson picked up 59 yards on a screen pass. Kris Brown's 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked by defensive end Antwan Odom five plays later, but the Texans scored on their next possession with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Schaub to Daniels.
The Texans also scored on their first possession of the second half. Last week, they didn't convert a first down or score any points in the first half before putting up 21 points in the second half at Arizona.
"We talked all week about starting fast and not waiting until the second half," Schaub said. "We were able to establish being able to move the ball. It was a big tone setter for us to start the game and the second half (like that)."
The Bengals scored all 17 of their points in the second quarter. Their first points came on a 10-yard touchdown run by Benson early in the period, which tied the game at seven.
On the ensuing drive, Slaton put the Texans back on top with a 38-yard touchdown off of a screen pass. After Slaton caught the pass in the left flat, left tackle Duane Brown threw a block near the line of scrimmage that sprang him to daylight. Wide receiver David Anderson also made a key block on the play.
With less than a minute before halftime, the Bengals tied it again with an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Palmer to wide receiver Laveranues Coles. Schaub was then picked off by cornerback Chris Crocker at the Cincinnati 41-yard line with 18 seconds left in the half. Crocker's 18-yard return set up a 50-yard field goal by Shayne Graham on the last play of the first half, which put the Bengals up 17-14.
That was the Bengals' only lead of the game, and it didn't last long. Four minutes into the third quarter, the Texans went ahead on Schaub's third touchdown pass of the game. It was a 23-yard strike to Jones, who was wide open in the end zone after a play-action fake.
Kubiak had a successful coach's challenge on the scoring drive, as the officials overturned their ruling of a fumble by Slaton that would have given the Bengals possession near midfield.
Early in the third quarter, Cushing forced a fumble on tight end Daniel Coats that was recovered by defensive end Antonio Smith at the Texans' 45-yard line.
Rookie defensive end Connor Barwin, who played at the University of Cincinnati, recorded his first-career sack later in the quarter. He sped off the edge on a third-and-four and wrapped up Palmer for a nine-yard loss.
After that three-and-out, the Texans drove 66 yards to extend their lead to 28-17 with a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch by Daniels from seven yards out.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Slaton lost a fumble at the Bengals' 19-yard line. Cushing got the ball back for the Texans two plays later by knocking the ball loose from tight end J.P. Foschi. Safety Bernard Pollard recovered in Bengals territory.
With 3:37 left in the game, the Bengals got the ball at their own 20-yard line. They reached the Texans' 26-yard line at the two-minute warning, but Cushing ended Cincinnati's comeback hopes with an interception at the 11-yard line. The Texans kneeled out the remaining time on the clock to walk away with the victory.
Injuries: Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko suffered a left knee injury on the Texans' first drive of the game. Odom suffered a right Achilles injury late in the first quarter and was carted off the field. He did not return.
Inactives:The Texans' inactives were defensive tackle Shaun Cody, defensive tackle DelJuan Robinson, guard Tutan Reyes, tight end Anthony Hill, cornerback Antwaun Molden, safety Nick Ferguson, receiver Glenn Martinez and quarterback Dan Orlovsky.