The 2013 NFL playoffs kicked off Saturday afternoon with a rematch of a Wild Card round matchup from a year ago, as the Cincinnati Bengals traveled to Houston to try to avenge a 31-10 postseason loss to the Houston Texans last year.
The two teams enter the game headed in opposite directions, with the Bengals riding a three game winning streak into the playoffs while the Texans, losers of three of their last four, saw their late-season swoon cost them a first-round playoff bye.
As the Texans' website pointed out, fans at Reliant Stadium showed up to make some noise.
However, according to ESPN the prevailing wisdom among their experts was that those fans could be in for a long day.
Only 4 of our 12 NFL analysts think the Texans will defeat the Bengals today at home. twitter.com/ESPNNFL/status…— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 5, 2013
It didn't take long for Houston's J.J. Watt to make an impact, as a first quarter sack set up a Cincinnati punt, and according to Joey Levitt the team may have gotten the second-year pro right out of a comic book.
JJ Watt - a stats accumulating, Gamma ray-infused Justin Smith? Frightening. #CINvsHOU— Joey Levitt (@jlevitt16) January 5, 2013
The first quarter was dominated by the Texans, and although the score was only 3-0 the Bengals' own website pointed out a stat that did not bode well for Cincinnati.
End of 1st qtr with HOU first down at CIN 16. Total yards so far: HOU 112 CIN 19. #CINvsHOU— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 5, 2013
Fans such as Don Hartman had a slightly dimmer view of the first stanza.
However, as badly as the Texans were outplaying the Bengals all it took was one bad decision by Matt Schaub to give the Bengals the lead.
Schaub tossed an ill-advised pass that was returned for a touchdown by Leon Hall, and that brought out the snide comments from inside another star quarterback's head (sort of).
Matt Schaub with a spot on impression of Mark Sanchez.— Tom Brady's Ego (@TomBradysEgo) January 5, 2013
The Texans answered Schaub's gaffe, but although the team absolutely dominated the first half statistically their inability to punch it in left Houston clinging to a 9-7 lead and fans such as "Dave" ready to start handing out pink slips.
@houstontexans If we lose, Schaub and Kubiak both need to go. Schaub ain't the guy.— Dave (@Dave77062) January 5, 2013
Meanwhile, fans of the Bengals such as Tonedamus were left wondering if perhaps the team accidentally forgot something in Ohio.
Green, for the record, not only had zero catches in the first half but wasn't even targeted as the Bengals managed all of 53 yards offensively.
However, the Bengals were once again stymied on their first drive of the second half, and after an Arian Foster touchdown run spotted Houston a 16-7 lead fans such as Neil Morrissette started to breathe a little easier.
There it is. Scoreboard starting to match the game flow RT @houstontexans: TOUCHDOWN FOSTER!!!!!— Neil Morrissette (@neilmorrissette) January 5, 2013
The Bengals finally remembered that A.J. Green was on their team and drove down for a field goal to close to 16-10, at which point Roland Martin decreed that it was time for Matt Schaub to drop the hammer.
While the Texans searched the locker room for Matt Scahub's killer instinct, Arian Foster made some NFL history.
@arianfoster first player with 100 yd rushing in first 3 postseason games im NFL history.— Marvin Salinas (@marvinsalinas23) January 5, 2013
Cincinnati forced a punt, but then quarterback Andy Dalton threw a backbreaking interception to Jonathan Joseph that led to yet another field goal and brought harsh criticism from the imaginary mind of one of the NFL's all-time great broadcasters.
Andy Dalton is proving what we knew all along.. you can't trust a ginger— Faux John Madden (@FauxJohnMadden) January 5, 2013
The Bengals answered with a field goal of their own as the 4th quarter got underway, and after the Texans drove into Cincinnati territory but elected to punt on 4th and short head coach Gary Kubiak's decision was met with derision by many, including Pete Damilatis of Pro Football Focus.
Does anyone know the record for punts on 4th-and-1? Gary Kubiak may break it tonight.— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) January 6, 2013
However, a Cincinnati drive stalled inside the Houston 30 with under three minutes left, the Texans never relinquished the ball after that, and Houston will move on to face the New England Patriots after eking out a 19-13 win.
For the Bengals, it was yet another playoff disappointment, and Dalton took much of the blame himself according to Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Dalton: "I have to do a better job of making sure A.J. get his catches."— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) January 6, 2013
On the other side, for Texans fans such as Ishe Smith it was time to celebrate, although he certainly knew who to thank for the victory.
Foster's head coach agreed according to Nick Scurfield of the team's website.
"He's a man. The whole stadium knew we had to line up & run the ball, & boy was he at his best at the end there." Kubiak on @arianfoster— Nick Scurfield (@NickScurfield) January 6, 2013
Scurfield also let his allegiances show though a bit (hey, we're all fans) while making a nice pop culture reference.
"Terror rains drenchin', quenchin' the thirst of the power drones"...some folks will get that, others not so much.
The celebration may be short-lived, however, as now the Texans have to try to figure out a way to beat a New England team that destroyed Houston 42-14 a few weeks ago.
However, as Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweeted Foster, for one, is ready for the challenge.
Arian Foster on a rematch with the Patriots: "We owe them one."— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) January 6, 2013
There will be time for that later. For now though it's all smiles, and the Texans move on.