Riding the career performance of quarterback Brandon Allen, the Bengals played complementary football in Sunday's fourth quarter that sent them to a 37-31 victory in Houston.
In winning a shootout with brilliant Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Allen was even better as he sifted Houston on 29 of 37 for a career-high 371 yards and 125.5 passer rating to give Bengals head coach Zac Taylor his first road victory
On the winning drive Allen found Alex Erickson over the middle for his sixth catch of the day (he came in with five all year) to give him 88 yards on the day and put the Bengals in the red zone. With running back Samaje Perine barreling for the rest, the Bengals were on the Texans 4 with a second down when they come out after the two-minute warning.
On the next snap, Perine bolted in for the touchdown behind right guard Quinton Spain to give the Bengals a 34-31 lead with 1:57 left to end that dive that soaked 4:18 off the clock.
The Bengals defense didn't play as well as it had in the previous five games, but it sure did when needed. With 1:28 left, left end Sam Hubbard came screaming of the edge and knocked the ball out of Watson's hand as he wound up and defensive lineman Margus Hunt recovered the fumble. That set up Austin Seibert's 36-yard field goal with 18 seconds left.
There was no magic left for Watson as he finished 22 of 32 for 294 yards and the Bengals celebrated their first back-to-back wins and first fourth-quarter comeback in two years. Perine added 95 yards on 13 rushes as the Bengals rolled up 540 yards.
In a 17-17 game, Allen kept looking for rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins. He hit him deep for 31 yards, but the play was negated when tight end Drew Sample was called for basically setting a pick.
That set up third-and-11 and wide receiver A.J. Green made a great play for the first down wrenching the ball from cornerback Keion Crossen. Allen, at this point, was feeling it. He hit wide receiver Alex Erickson down the seam for 42 yards off play-action. Higgins wasn't far from his thoughts. Allen floated a 20-yard dime to him running past cornerback John Reid and Higgins made sure the officials knew he got both feet down for a 24-17 lead.
Allen kept it rolling on the next drive in what was now a 24-24 game. But his biggest play on that drive was when he drew Hall-of-Famer J.J. Watt offsides on fourth-and-six and then on fourth and inches he rolled to his left and hit Erickson on a flip for the first down.
But Allen's quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 was wiped out when wide receiver Stanley Morgan was called for being in an illegal formation when he didn't cover up the line. Austin Sebert drilled a 48-yarder with 10:35 left to give the Bengals a 27-24 lead.
But they couldn't keep it because a well as the Bengals defense has played in the last five games, they reverted to their struggles of September and October. The Texans took their first lead of the game with 6:15 left on Watson's 22-yard pass to tight end Darren Fells. It was the second play of the drive in which a Houston tight end carried multiple defenders for at least 10 yards before getting him to the ground.
That was spiced by a big run from running back David Johnson out of Houston's suddenly rejuvenated run game. And Watson turned a certain sack by linemen Khalid Kareem and Xavier Williams into a scrambling first down.
The Bengals and Texans opened the second half ripping off their longest runs of the season.
Check out some of the best images from the Bengals Week 16 matchup against the Houston Texans.
On the opening drive Bengals running back Samaje Perine rolled for the longest run of his career, a 46-yarder that gave them a 17-10 lead on their first third-quarter points since October. Running behind two tight ends, Perine spun out of tackles by safety A.J. Moore Jr. and defensive end Charles Omenihu and went down the left sideline.
David Johnson, working behind an offensive line that lost its left side in the first half including top tier left tackle Laremy Tunsil, hit them for 38 yards to set up his tying touchdown. Johnson ripped through middle linebackers Josh Bynes and Germaine Pratt and then, on the next series, he did it again.
The Texans came in last in NFL rushing, but not Sunday. Johnson went for a 48-yarder on the next series, helped along by free safety Jessie Bates III's missed tackle. At that point Houston had a staggering 140 yards rushing despite coming into the day with just 97 per game and re-shuffled line.
Watson kept that drive alive with a devastating first-down scramble on third-and-13 in the red zone and then on another third-down play from the Bengals 2, Johnson was one-one-one with rookie linebacker Markus Bailey and Watson found him to send the game into the third quarter tied at 24.
It was a tough sequence for Bailey. On the ensuing kick off he was called for holding to wipe out Brandon Wilson's 64-yard return. That turned out to be a 50-yard penalty when the Bengals started at their own 10.