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Cincinnati Bengals Get Second Chance Against Houston Texans
Texans Collpase Set Rematch
by Robb Hoff
January 3, 2013
Just when it looked like the Cincinnati Bengals would face the daunting task of playing their Wildcard game on the road against either the Patriots or Broncos, the Houston Texans handed a gift to the Bengals by losing to the Colts.
Now, the Bengals face better odds of notching the first franchise playoff win in 22 years if they can beat a different Houston team than the one they beat more than two decades ago -- the Oilers.
The Bengals face much better odds against the Texans for reasons beside just the likelihood that the Texans are the least of the three evils.
This game will be personal for the Bengals players who watched their team wilt against the Texans last year in the Wildcard round -- especially personal for Bengals QB Andy Dalton, who gets a chance at homecoming redemption after blowing last year's shot at a playoff win in virtually his backyard.
Dalton looked poised enough last year as a rookie against the Texans in the playoffs with the exception of one play that signaled the undoing of the Bengals. With a minute left in the first half and the ball at the Bengals 34 yard line, Dalton threw the ball straight into the hands of leaping Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who promptly returned the pick for the touchdown that gave the Texans the lead for good at 17-10.
It was a pass that should've never been thrown and a play that should've never been called. The Bengals had the ball to start the second half and could've taken a lot of pressure off themselves by coming out of the halftime locker room with the score tied
This time around, Dalton will hopefully show he's more seasoned and will make better decisions. He has to make better decisions because the Bengals offense that will take the field against the Texans Saturday is just as offensively challenged as last year.
The Bengals defense is legitimately a force and can be expected to contain the Texans running attack better than it did in last year's playoff loss. Even though the Texans didn't have starting QB Matt Schaub last year, the team doesn't likely stand to benefit as much from his presence this time around as might be expected, largely because he will not get much time to throw against a relentless and deep Bengals defensive line led by budding superstars Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson.
But even if the Bengals defensive can collar the Texans offense, it can't control the game when Dalton takes the reins and ultimately the outcome of this rematch will literally be in the hands of Dalton and Dalton alone.
Now is the time for Dalton to show he's really The Red Rifle -- not The Red-Headed Step-Child -- and take the steps towards the success his predecessors like Boomer Esiason and his numbersake Kenny Anderson had when they were able to lead the Bengals to Super Bowls.
The Bengals have reached the playoffs three out of the last four years, but another playoff loss will do more damage to the team and fan base than good, especially if the offseason means that the Bengals will lose their coordinators Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden.