Bengals Offense MIA
Matt Schuab locked in on James Casey and watched the Houston Texans' early, slippery grip on a playoff game squirt away.
When Schaub floated a pass toward Casey on the left sideline, deep in his own territory, Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Leon Hall stepped in front and out fought Casey for the football, turning a third down attempt into a 21-yard Pick-6 touchdown the other way.
It's the type of mistake that can swing playoff games, the type of play that could haunt Schaub deep into the summer.
The Texans would go into halftime leading 9-7, with their offense producing all 16 points.
There is a big possible saving grace for the Texans though: The inability of the Bengals to do anything at all on offense. Cincinnati managed 53 yards of offense total in the first half of the playoff rematch at Reliant Stadium. And 12 of those came on a broken play Andy Dalton scramble on his team's second to last drive of the half.
The Texans would go into halftime leading 9-7, with their offense producing all 16 points. And you can bet Schaub and Co. were almost as disappointed about the nine as they were the seven.
Houston out gained Cincinnati 250-53 and still led by only two points.
Almost as damaging to the Texans as Schuab's pick? Lifeline wideout Andre Johnson's inability to hold onto a pass in the end zone for the second straight game.
This one came on a third-and-3 from the Bengals' 4-yard line, with the Texans spread out, forcing Cincinnati into one-on-one coverage. Schaub didn't deliver a perfect pass to Johnson. But it was good enough. In No. 80's extended hands.
When Johnson couldn't come down with it, Houston settled for its third field goal of the first half, its third unsatisfying ending to a long drive.
The Texans started their first offensive possession at their own 16-yard-line. They began their second at their own 5-yard line, but still managed to turn that beginning into three points.
It could have been more if tight end Owen Daniels held onto a third-and-2 pass that bounced off his hands. That miss had Schaub shaking his head.
Playoff games are often defined by the simple plays that aren't made as much as the game-changing ones that are (a J.J. Watt swat, tip and Pick-6 return doesn't happen every game).
The Bulls Roar
The crowd did its best to match the unbridled playoff intensity of last year's rocking Reliant debut — coming close to doing it at times. And as the roar returned, so did The Bulls On Parade.
Wade Phillips defense came out flying. Connor Barwin bursts into the backfield and drops Benjarvus Green-Ellis for a five-yard loss on one play. J.J. Watt speeds by center Kyle Cook on the very next play and sacks Andy Dalton for a nine-yard setback.
Schaub completed nine of his first 10 passes, with the only miss being the Daniels drop. Many were drop down passes though and he averaged only 6.5 yards per attempt as the Texans settled for a 6-0 lead after two long drives.
The first playoff start of Schaub's career would produce anything but a dream start. The doubts would carry on.