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Texans win first playoff game, 31-10 over Bengals

Texans win first playoff game, 31-10 over Bengals

The Houston Texans won their first NFL playoff game in franchise history by beating the bungling Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 on Saturday in the AFC wild-card game.
Rookie J.J. Watt's leaping interception return for a touchdown late in the first half put the Texans on course for victory. Third-string quarterback T.J. Yates, another rookie pressed into action, then threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson in the third quarter and Arian Foster followed with his second touchdown of the game, a 42-yard run in the fourth quarter, to finish off the Bengals.
After nine seasons of missing the playoffs, the Texans (11-6) are heading to play the Baltimore Ravens (12-4) next Sunday.
"This is a special day," Houston coach Gary Kubiak said.
Cincinnati was in the playoffs for the third time in seven seasons, but the Bengals (9-8) haven't advanced since beating the Houston Oilers following the 1990 season.
The Bengals outplayed the Texans for most of the first half, holding down Houston's offense and controlling time of possession, and took the lead in the first quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Cedric Benson.
Houston drew level on the next possession, as Foster scored on an 8-yard run.
After an exchange of field goals _ Cincinnati's Mike Nugent from 37 yards and Houston's Neil Rackers from 39 _ the Texans took the lead for good late in the second quarter when Watt intercepted Cincinatti quarterback Andy Dalton and returned it 29 yards for a score, going ahead 17-10.
Watt saw this one coming, measuring his jump when Dalton dropped back and snatching the ball with both hands. He sprinted to the end zone as the capacity crowd exploded, and he raised both hands after crossing.
Watt became the sixth defensive linemen to return an interception for a touchdown in postseason history _ excluding the Super Bowl _ and the first rookie to do it.
"He's been exceptional," Kubiak said. "He's played like a 4- or 5-year player. That was a huge play. That got us a lot of momentum going into halftime."
Dalton, meanwhile, rolled his eyes and shook his head as he walked to the Cincinnati bench and watched the replay on the giant scoreboard. It was just his second interception in his past seven games.
Late in the third quarter, Yates got away with a pass that Bengals safety Chris Crocker simply dropped. Three plays later, Johnson broke free from his cornerback and caught Yates' pinpoint pass down the sideline to put Houston up 24-10.
Foster then had a highlight reel run in the fourth quarter, dancing down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown to complete the scoring.
Dalton was 24 of 42 for 257 yards with three interceptions while Houston's Yates was 11 of 20 for 159 yards in the first playoff game in the Super Bowl era matching two rookie quarterbacks.
___
SAINTS 45, LIONS 28
In New Orleans, quarterback Drew Brees led an unstoppable offense by throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns, as New Orleans poured it on in the second half for an NFC wild-card victory over Detroit.
New Orleans broke the postseason mark for total yards with 626, beating the record set 49 years ago.
Brees connected on 33 of 43 passes while throwing for the most yards in a regulation playoff game. He highlighted his night with three completions of at least 40 yards.
"We just focus on winning. We're not focused on yards and records," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I'm serious when I say that."
As usual, the quarterback had plenty of help from an offense that set an NFL record for yards from scrimmage this season (7,474).
The Saints (14-3) will travel to San Francisco (13-3) for next Saturday's second-round game.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 380 yards and three TDs but the Lions (10-7) simply could not keep pace in their first playoff appearance since 1999. They have lost seven straight postseason games.
The Lions became only the second visiting team all year to lead at halftime in the Superdome, where the Saints were unbeaten during the regular season.
Detroit's Will Heller and Calvin Johnson both had receptions on 10- and 13-yard passes from Stafford, while New Orleans had a running touchdown from Darren Sproles and a field goal from John Kasay, making it 14-10 to the visitors at halftime.
"So going into halftime at a deficit, we just realized, `Listen, just bear down, one play at a time, one drive at a time,'" Brees said, "and we scored on every drive in the second half. I guess that's what you hope for."
The Saints opened the second half by driving 78 yards to take their first lead on Brees' 31-yard pass to Devery Henderson.
New Orleans then widened its lead to 24-14 with a 92-yard drive that included what may have been a generous spot on Marques Colston's third-down grab at the Saints 18. Brees converted a risky dive over the pile on fourth-and-1 at the New Orleans 38-yard line to sustain the drive before finding Colston for a 40-yard gain to the Detroit 3. Brees hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a score on the next play.
The Lions fought back with a quick 80-yard scoring drive highlighted by Stafford's 42-yard completion to Johnson at the Saints 2, setting up Stafford's touchdown dive that made it 24-21 late in the third quarter.
New Orleans showed daring and got a little good fortune on a decisive 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter. The Saints ran Sproles around left end on fourth-and-2 at the Lions 40 and he gained the 3 yards for first down. Soon after, Brees' pass as he was clobbered went right through the hands of Detroit's defensive back Aaron Berry.
Berry would regret that drop two plays later as Sproles bolted 17 yards into the endzone to make it 31-21.
Stafford tried to get some of that back quickly, throwing deep for Titus Young, but cornerback Jamari Greer intercepted. Four plays later, Brees spotted Robert Meachem behind blown coverage for his long score to make it 38-21.
Detroit managed the cut the deficit to 10 points when Stafford delivered a 12-yard pass to Johnson, but the Saints iced it on Pierre Thomas 1-yard run to complete the scoring.
The teams combined for 1,083 yards, tying an NFL playoff record set by Buffalo and Miami in 1995-96.


Updated : 2021-07-31 17:19 GMT+08:00