Texans players said this week that their defense had a great week of practice – that it looked like the same defense that ranked second in the NFL last season and propelled the team to an 11-1 start in 2012.
It showed on Saturday.
The Texans limited the Cincinnati Bengals offense to 198 yards and two field goals in a 19-13 victory. The Bengals had 19 yards in the first quarter and 53 in the first half, including -6 passing yards. They went 0-of-9 on third down, becoming the first team not to convert a third down in a playoff game since the Buffalo Bills in 1988.
"It felt like the Bulls on Parade again today," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "That was our goal at the beginning of the week. We said, 'Let's get back to playing the way we play, like Bulls on Parade.' Out there today, it felt like that."
Watt had a typical standout game, with one sack, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and two passes defensed. He tied for the team lead with five tackles. Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan joseph had an interception against his former team and broke up two passes, including one in the end zone. Inside linebacker Bradie James, outside linebacker Connor Barwin and nose tackle Earl Mitchell all had tackles for loss. Safety Glover Quin broke up three passes, Kareem Jackson two and cornerback Brandon Harris one.
"I think it's just about making plays, each and every week," Joseph said. "Anytime you have a team out there getting their hands (up) and batting balls down and stopping them on first down and making it second-and-12 in the run game or just putting pressure on the quarterback all day, I think it makes it hard from an offensive standpoint."
Texans coach Gary Kubiak told the Texans during the week leading up to the game to play with reckless abandon and "cut it loose." Judging by defensive end Antonio Smith's postgame comments, that's exactly what they did.
"I think we burned the ships," said Smith, a team captain. "It is the playoffs. We couldn't leave anything out there on the field, and I think that everybody brought their intensity and their A-game. It wasn't perfect out there, but still you have to play as it is coming and making plays. When they make a play, we make a play. If something bad happens, we turn it right on around. That is how we have been winning all year—not getting down.
"This win just means that we are on to the next round. That is it. 'Burn the ship,' though, does not mean one win. It wasn't just for this win. It was a good win to turn around the momentum, but 'burn the ship' is for the whole playoffs."