The Texans and Bengals took the field knowing there was no playoff berth or winning season at stake. They also knew they couldn't knock anyone out of playoff contention. What was on the line was a precious win; something that has been rare for both teams this season.
Cincinnati moved the ball extremely well on its way to a 37-31 victory that sent the Texans to 4-11. This is four losses in a row now with three of them basically getting clinched with a Texans turnover in crunch time.
This time it wasn't a two-yard-line mishap but a strip sack that ended the fun. Deshaun Watson had the ball in his hand and wanted to throw it and keep a would-be game winning drive alive but it popped loose on a Sam Hubbard hit and the Bengals all but iced the game.
Watson threw three touchdown passes and broke a franchise record with his 30th of the season. The three time Pro Bowler made play after play in helping his team keep up with a Bengals attack that racked up over 500 yards on the day.
David Johnson had his best day as a Texan (128 yards, one TD rushing, one receiving) and the line, with starters Laremy Tunsil and Brent Qvale having to exit the game, gave up only one sack. Brandin Cooks had stellar day with seven grabs for 141 yards and a TD.
The game began with the opponent scoring on its opening possession for the ninth consecutive time. The Texans are undermanned on D but know they can't continue giving up early scores, putting themselves in a hole. The fourth quarter lead against the Bengals is the first second half lead since Thanksgiving.
When the defense got off the field with 10:38 to go in the 4th quarter to force a field goal attempt, it felt like a small victory. Watson took the team downfield and Darren Fells took people into the end zone for an unforgettable touchdown that gave the Texans the lead.
But the Bengals kept on moving the ball, adding 10 more points before the game would go into the books. Cincinnati won on the road for the first time in Zac Taylor's two years as coach as they piled up season highs in points, yards and time of possession.
For the Texans, the season now comes down to a date with their archrivals. Tennessee appears at NRG to close out the regular season for the second consecutive year. It's one more chance to break a losing skid and to go out on an up note to close out 2020.
Houston Texans take on the Cincinnati Bengals at NRG Stadium.