Christmas came early for the Texans, who locked up the AFC South with a 12-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday night at NRG Stadium. A missed last-second field goal sealed the victory in front of a home crowd.
With the Titans falling to the Jaguars on the road earlier in the afternoon, Houston needed to win to earn their second-consecutive division title and playoff appearance.
Tom Savage made his first career NFL start against Cincinnati. The third-year quarterback and the Texans offense didn't gain much momentum until after halftime. After a scoreless first half, Savage led the Texans on three scoring drives, two field goals and one touchdown. Savage completed 18-of-29 for 176 yards and threw no interceptions. DeAndre Hopkins caught three passes for 43 yards, while C.J. Fiedorowicz made four catches for 42 yards.
Alfred Blue also got his first start of the season with Lamar Miller out with an ankle injury. Blue scored his first touchdown of the year on a 24-yard run in the fourth quarter. He finished the night with 21 carries for 73 yards in the win.
The Texans defense was led by A.J. Bouye with nine tackles and three passes defensed. Andy Dalton, sacked three times, was 28-of-41 for 268 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Whitney Mercilus recorded two sacks, two quarterback hits, and two tackles for loss. Jadeveon Clowney had one sack, one quarterback hit and one tackle for loss. Quintin Demps had the lone takeaway for the Texans, picking off Daltons for his third interception in as many weeks.
Nick Novak was 2-for-2, connecting on field goals from 25 and 22 yards. Novak has now made 16 consecutive field goals, tying the second-longest streak in Texans history.
It was a battle of the defenses in the first half, with each team punting six times. The Bengals took a 3-0 lead heading into the lockerroom after Bengals kicker Randy Bullock connected on a 43-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
After a scoreless first half, the Texans scored on back-to-back possessions to start the third quarter.
Savage orchestrated an 11-play, 68-yard drive resulting in a field goal to open the second half. Novak's 25-yard kick tied the game 3-3 with 9:05 remaining in the third quarter.
Three defensive penalties resulted in first downs for Houston's offense, two defensive pass interference calls on Adam Jones and a roughing the passer call for first down. Akeem Hunt's 24-yard catch-and-run moved the Texans to the Cincinnati six-yard line. Novak's 22-yard field goal gave Houston its first lead with 13:31 left in the fourth quarter, but it would be short-lived.
Dalton, after being intercepted by Demps, returned to the field and threw his first touchdown pass of the day. On third-and-five, Dalton's pass to Brandon LaFell resulted in an 86-yard touchdown. The Bengals took a 10-6 lead with 10:45 left in the game.
Savage kicked off the ensuing drive with three consecutive first downs: Will Fuller had a 19-yard gain followed by an 11-yard run by Savage, and then a 21-yard catch by Hopkins to move the Texans to the Cincinnati 24-yard line. On the next play, Blue's 24-yard touchdown run gave Houston a lead they would never relinquish.
Bullock missed the 43-yard field goal attempt as time expired and Houston earned the 2016 AFC South title in back-to-back seasons.
The Texans will finish their 2016 regular season on the road against the Tennessee Titans.
Check out the best gameday photos as the Texans took on the Bengals at NRG Stadium.