The Texans’ stunning victory at Cincinnati, where they were a 6.5-point underdog, was achieved with their most balanced attack of the season. They ran, they passed, they sacked and intercepted Joe Burrow and won on Matt Ammendola’s 38-yard field goal with no time remaining. They beat a genuine Super Bowl contender on the road, and the Bengals were riding high with a four-game winning streak. Turnabout is fair play, right? In their last two defeats – both on the road – the Texans lost to the Falcons and Panthers on field goals with no time remaining. Think Atlanta and Carolina are giving thanks they’ve already played the Texans?
C.J. Stroud accounted for all three turnovers, but he’s forgiven for engineering another game-winning drive as time expired. He was intercepted for the second time and lost two fumbles, including one that was a very questionable call because his arm was moving forward. He finished with 356 yards and one touchdown passing and another one rushing. His rating was 87.1. For the second consecutive game, Stroud was masterful on the game-winning drive. He’s not just playing well for a rookie – he’s playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL.
The best performance by the running game this season. Of the Texans’ season-best 188 yards rushing, Devin Singletary had 150 on 30 carries and a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik had receivers Xavier Hutchinson (one for 17) and Tank Dell (one for 13) getting double-digit runs. Singletary was the kind of workhorse Arian Foster used to be when the Texans had the best running game in franchise history. When Singletary got the ball, he knew where to go with it against a Cincinnati defense that entered the game 27th against the run, allowing 129.8 yards a game.
Nico Collins, the team’s leading receiver, was unable to play. Noah Brown stepped up big time and continued his mind-boggling performance. One week after Brown caught six passes for 153 yards and a touchdown in the victory over Tampa Bay, he had seven receptions for 172 yards against the Bengals, including a 22-yard gain on the game-winning drive. Brown has been the definition of a big-play receiver. Tank Dell had six catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Robert Woods returned from an injury and had one catch for 15 yards and almost had a touchdown on another one. John Metchie III had two receptions as C.J. Stroud spread the ball to seven different players who caught at least one pass.
Dalton Schultz continued to make a lot of big catches, but his most impressive play wasn’t a catch. It was his devastating block on Devin Singletary’s 6-yard touchdown run. Schultz’s reputation when he played for the Cowboys was that he couldn’t block. Not Sunday. He buried a Bengal defender. Knocked him down with a perfectly timed block and then drove him into the ground and fell on top of him. Schultz finished with four receptions for 71 yards (17.8 average), and his most important was a 25-yard catch on the game-winning drive.
The best game of the season. Tackles Laremy Tunsil and George Fant, guards Tytus Howard and Shaq Mason and center Michael Deiter did a great job on pass protection and an outstanding job of run blocking – the best of the season. They knocked the Bengals’ defenders off the line of scrimmage, clearing paths for Devin Singletary to rush for 150 yards. C.J. Stroud was sacked one time. A job very well done by the linemen.
Last week, NextGenStats had Sheldon Rankins as one of the best
tackles in the league at beating his man off the ball on passing plays. He must have wanted to prove the NFL’s analytics service correct because he registered three of the Texans’ four sacks. Jonathan Greenard got the other one. Rankins knocked down Joe Burrow four times, and Will Anderson Jr. did it twice. The linemen did a tremendous job of shutting down the run, helping to limit Cincinnati to 66 yards, and getting pressure on Burrow, who was knocked down nine times and threw two interceptions.
With rookie Henry To’oTo’o out with an injury, Blake Cashman, Denzell Perryman and Christian Harris stepped up. They were awesome against the run, and they did their best job in pass coverage. Perryman, Cashman and Harris had five tackles each. Two of Perryman’s tackles were for losses. He committed two penalties late in the game, but the offense was able to overcome them to secure the victory.
Steven Nelson was unable to start because of injuries, but he did come off the bench. Derek Stingley Jr. played for the first time after missing six games. He was beaten on the game’s first touchdown, a 32-yard pass from Joe Burrow to Trenton Irwin. Shaquill Griffin intercepted Burrow in the end zone. DeAndre Houston-Carson also intercepted Burrow to stop another potential touchdown drive. Tavierre Thomas led the defense with eight tackles. Houston-Carson had seven unassisted tackles, most on the team.
In his first game with the Texans, Matt Amendola kicked field goals of 45, 22 and 38 yards – the last one the game-winner with no time left. It was a clutch performance by the well-traveled Ammendola. To say he had a cup of coffee with the Texans in 2022 would be an overstatement. He was signed and cut two days later. He’s back with the Texans, his sixth team. He signed with the Roughnecks in August. This time, Ammendola signed with the Texans after Ka’imi Fairbairn suffered a quad injury and was placed on injured reserve. Cam Johnston had a solid outing with a 42.3-yard gross average and a 40.3 net. He put two punts inside the Bengals’ 20. Tank Dell did a nice job on punt returns, and kick coverage was excellent.
DeMeco Ryans and his staff did another outstanding job. Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik deserves a lot of credit for the calls on his side of the ball that produced the best game of the season by the offense – 544 yards, including 188 and two touchdowns rushing. The defense produced in clutch situations at the end and was able to overcome mistakes. What Ryans and his staff are doing with a team that won three games last season is getting them a lot of well-deserved attention around the NFL.
(John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday, Thursday and Sunday on Texans Radio, also on Sports Radio 610. He writes five columns a week and does three Houtopia Football Podcasts for SportsRadio610.com.)