By Shawn Lealos
The Houston Texans squeaked out a narrow win over the Cincinnati Bengals and, combined with losses by Indianapolis and Tennessee, the Texans clinched the AFC South. Houston was able to hold on to win despite a lackluster quarterback performance and without their MVP defensive star in J.J. Watt. The Houston Texans won 12-10 and will head back to the playoffs once again.
The Texans led the AFC South for the entire season, but knew that they needed to get stronger play from their starting quarterback. With the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts knocking on the door, head coach Bill O’Brien pulled the trigger and benched Brock Osweiler for Tom Savage, and Savage got his first career start against the Cincinnati Bengals. Savage struggled, only completing two passes for 13 yards in the first half and 18 total for 176 yards. He was also sacked four times.
However, he didn’t turn the ball over in the game and held his team together to lead them to the win. He spread the ball around to six different receivers with tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz leading the way with four catches and receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller each grabbing three. Alfred Blue led the way in the running game, carrying the ball 21 times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
The Houston Texans defense continues to carry this team. Bengals’ starting running back Jeremy Hill only gained eight yards on seven carries and Rex Burkhead carried the ball 12 times for 42 yards. They also limited what Andy Dalton could do, holding him to one touchdown and one interception in the game. With A.J. Green out for the season, it was Brandon Lafell who stepped up, catching six balls for 130 yards and a touchdown—but that was the only real offense for the Bengals.
The Texans sacked Dalton three times with Jadeveon Clowney getting a sack for his third straight game. This was also the third straight game in which Quintin Demps intercepted a pass.
Special Teams: B
Shane Lechler was busy, punting the ball eight times in the game. The most impressive thing is that he put four of them inside the 20 and the Bengals only had a total of 15 yards on the seven returns they attempted. Nick Novak had an extra point blocked in the game, but he also hit two field goals, which was enough to win the game for the Texans.
The Houston Texans made a risky move when they pulled Brock Osweiler last week and then stuck with Tom Savage to make his first start. Savage has been with Houston for awhile, but never got the chance to start, despite shaky quarterback play the past few seasons. He was not overly impressive, but Bill O’Brien is doing what he can to put his team in position to win. He has them back in the playoffs, and that means something.
Up Next: With the AFC South wrapped up, the season finale against the (8-7) Tennessee Titans lost a lot of its luster. Tennessee could have stolen the division with a win in that final game if they had not lost this week. However, the Titans not only lost, but also lost their starting quarterback to a broken leg. That means that Tennessee is playing for nothing while Houston has to work to get Tom Savage more comfortable leading this offense. There is nothing on the line, but Houston has a lot of work to do as they head into the playoffs.