For the few weeks leading up to Saturday's Wild Card playoff game, the Texans' passing attack consisted primarily of Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Although Johnson more than held up his end of the bargain, the Texans are at their best when they spread the ball around. That was the case against the Bengals. Quarterback Matt Schaub completed passes to six different receivers, with 41 percent of his completions to his tight ends.
Owen Daniels led the Texans with a game-high nine receptions for 91 yards (10.1 average), while fellow tight end Garrett Graham contributed three catches for 29 yards (9.7 average), including a seven-yard grab in the fourth quarter on third down that moved the chains and helped seal the win.
"It was important because of what (the Bengals) were doing defensively to us," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of his tight ends' performance. "They're an excellent team and they play a lot of two-deep. They've got a great front. They don't give up big plays. Owen and Garrett, they became a big factor in the game. It was huge.
"Nobody makes (a play) bigger than Garrett there at the end."
After struggling with third-down efficiency recently, the Texans converted 8-of-17 third down attempts Saturday. Daniels and Graham accounted for three of those first downs.
Daniels, the team's second-leading receiver in the regular season, was pleased with his performance.
"I was fortunate to get some opportunities," Daniels said. "Whenever you have 'Dre out there, you tend to find yourself in some one-on-one matchups. I did what I could with that, and Matt did a great job of getting me the ball."
Graham's catch in traffic drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and allowed Houston to run out the final couple minutes of game clock.
"To see Owen and Garrett play so well, and for Garrett to make that big catch at the end, I'm so happy and proud for those guys," fullback James Casey said. "As a group, we pride ourselves on being game-changers and helping the team win. Today, the tight end group played pretty well, I thought."
One area where the Texans continue to search for answers is the red zone. Houston scored one touchdown in four trips inside the Bengals' 20-yard line, and Shayne Graham kicked four field goals.
As the Texans turn their attention toward the New England Patriots, they know turning field goals into touchdowns will be critical against the NFL's top-scoring offense. Daniels and Graham appear ready for the challenge.
"When you face a team like New England that scores a lot of points," Daniels said, "you have to take advantage of your opportunities down there. That will be a focus this week, obviously."