The Texans came to Cincinnati with an injury report that included enough names to field an entire team. They had the adversity of having to rebound from a blowout loss on opening day, on a short week, severely undermanned.
Yet they won.
The last three games with the Bengals, all Texans wins, had scores of 13-9, 12-10 and 10-6. Bill O'Brien, who has sculpted some of his best wins under extreme circumstances, concocted a game plan that garnered just enough points for his defense to come away victorious.
Let's start with that side of the ball. After giving up 155 rushing four days earlier, the D locked down on the Bengals running backs. This forced Andy Dalton to try to win the game and he couldn't come through. Both offenses knew the margin of error was paper thin. It was the Bengals who made the big mistake in the first half with a fumble that the Texans turned into points.
As they did on Monday night football two years ago, the Texans came up with stop after stop, putting enough pressure on Dalton to disrupt the attack and force errant pass plays. O'Brien didn't have experienced tight ends so he went with extra offensive linemen for much of the night. This helped the Texans backs gain over 100 yards. But with the game on the line and Houston in need of some insurance points late, he trusted Deshaun Watson to operate with an empty backfield on several plays. It was needed to keep the Bengals defense spread out and work the ball to DeAndre Hopkins, who caught seven passes on the night.
We said during the broadcast and all week on Texans Radio that one key touchdown could win the game. It came in the second quarter, and on a 94-yard drive! Watson, on 3rd and 15, scrambled for a 49-yard touchdown run the grabbed a lead Houston would not surrender.
The national media wasn't exactly calling this one a masterpiece. But Texans insiders know better. With all that's been going on with this team, to come up with any kind of win needs to be dearly appreciated.
Thursday night road games are brutal. But at least now the Texans can enjoy a weekend off and heal some wounds. A three game stretch against good teams awaits. Watson will get a full week of practice as the Texans rebrand their attack in time to face New England.
The Texans faced the Bengals in Cincinnati on Thursday Night Football.