Updated: 12-12-11, 12:15 a.m.
As a stunned Marvin Lewis said after the game, the Bengals had control of their postseason destiny with a win. And in a blink of a T.J. Yates touchdown pass, now they don't.
"Now I can't tell you what is going to happen. We have to move forward and see what happens," he said.
At 7-6 the Bengals are a game behind the 8-5 Jets for the sixth and final AFC seed. They are currently eighth behind Tennessee and ahead of Oakland, also 7-6. The Titans would win a head-to-head with the Bengals and the Raiders because of a better conference record at 5-4. The Bengals are 6-5 and the Raiders 5-5 in the AFC, so Sunday's loss cuts that much deeper.
For the Bengals to edge the Jets (also 6-5 in the AFC) in a tiebreaker they would need them to lose to the Dolphins in the Jan. 1 finale in Miami and the Bengals would need to beat Baltimore at PBS the same day.
WILLIAMS FEARED DONE: The fear is that right guard Bobbie Williams's season is over with three games left when he injured his ankle Sunday on two consecutive plays in the second quarter of the 20-19 loss to the Texans at Paul Brown Stadium.
Williams, who said his ankle got rolled up while he was blocking, left on crutches and wearing a walking boot. He wouldn't be specific but he hinted it wouldn't be good news.
"Coach is going to get an update," he said.
Williams's replacement, four-year veteran Mike McGlynn, was involved in one of the biggest plays of the game when the Bengals lined up on a fourth-and-one from their own 48 with 2:43 left and leading 19-13. They tried to draw Houston offsides, but instead, McGlynn was called for a false start when he moved at right guard when the Texans were lined up in the neutral zone on the left side.
"Since I was two men removed, they said that's not the reason I jumped offsides," McGlynn said. "I had my eye on the ball. I saw a color flash and I reacted. Tough cal. If someone else had jumped (on the left side), they would have called the penalty (on the Texans)."
Earlier in the game, with the Bengals trying to punch in a touchdown on their second drive on a first down inside the 1, Williams was called for a false start and the Bengals had to settle for Mike Nugent's 22-yard field goal that tied the game at three.
JONES TAKES BLAME: But the biggest call in the game was the pass interference on Bengals cornerback Adam Jones after Texans quarterback T.J. Yates overthrew a third-down pass to wide receiver Jacoby Jones in the end zone with 12 seconds left.
It put the ball on the Bengals 6 and paved the way for Yates's winner to wide receiver Kevin Walter with two seconds left.
"He pushed me. I did this (to his finger)," said Adam Jones, quickly pinching a reporter's finger. "I didn't grab it. I have no excuses."
Asked if he thought it was a touchy call, Jones said, "What do you think? (12) seconds on the clock. What do you think? Of course I think it was a touchy call. It was on me. It wasn't a hold."
But Jones took the blame for Yates's wild drive.
"It is what it is. I have to come in here Monday and work my butt off so it doesn't happen next week," Jones said. "That was my fault. Nobody else's fault. I've got to make that play, though. There's no excuses. Not touching him or getting inside to knock the ball down. I don't think the ball was catchable. My opinion."
Here is how Jacoby Jones saw it via The Houston Chronicle: "I got a good release on him It was a corner post. When I beat him, he was holding onto my inside hand. I thought they weren't going to call it."
JONES ACCUSED: Following the scrum in which Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga recovered Texans running back Ben Tate's fumble, fullback Lawrence Vickers accused Jones of spitting in his face, according to The Chronicle.
It began when Vickers objected to how Jones went after Tate to get the ball.
"I don't know that man," Vickers said. "He DEFINITELY don't know me. He definitely don't," Vickers told the paper. "I prayed for that man," Vickers said. "I had to let the Lord handle him. The Lord don't put bad things on people, but I left it up to Him. I prayed real hard – I almost lost myself out there."
LAST PLAY: On paper, the Bengals defense did everything it was supposed to do. It held NFL rushing champion Arian Foster to 2.7 yards per rush and rocked an offense that had turned it over just 11 times coming into Sunday for four turnovers and the Bengals' first four-turnover day of the season.
But on the field the Bengals couldn't prevent a rookie quarterback in his second NFL start to go 80 yards in 2:29 and throw the winning touchdown pass from six yards out with two seconds left.
"Dropping eight, rushing three, can't let them in," said left end Robert Geathers.
But they did let former Bengals wide receiver Kevin Walter get in when he lined up as the widest receiver on his right and ran a shallow cross across the middle in front of the goal line. He was wide open as he caught the ball on the one and stepped backward for the winner. The receivers that lined up inside him went into the end zone.
The Bengals were apparently in a Cover 2 and Jones said, "He ran a simple route," after the Bengals called timeout to match Houston's personnel group.
Outside linebacker Manny Lawson said it was a tough play because the Bengals expected the ball to be thrown into the end zone.
"The clock is running, no timeouts left, if we tackle them outside the end zone, the game is over," Lawson said. "So they're going to throw it into the end zone or outside because there are too many people in the middle. But you also have to protect the end zone because you don't want to be too deep and have to come up and make a play."
Walter indicated to the Houston media that he and Yates hooked up on a similar play the week before against Atlanta when the defense was deep and Walter cut off the route.
"It's a play we put in this week," Yates said. "We ran it earlier in the season, but we thought it would be good against these guys. He was coming underneath the coverage in a pivot route and he just flashed wide open, and I just hit him."
ALL OUT: Bengals running back Cedric Benson admitted he hadn't seen anything like that before. After ripping through the Texans for 92 yards on 13 carries in the first half, he finished with 91 yards on 21 carries. Minus-1 in the second half.
"They brought more run-defending blitzes. Brought the safety in and he was just running through the gaps," Benson said.
A total of 42 of those yards came on his longest run of the season to set up the first Bengals score, a bolt off the right which came off the power play behind the block of pulling left guard Nate Livings. Benson nearly scored, but safety Danieal Manning grabbed him by the ankle to stop him at about the six-inch line and it ended up costing the Bengals four points because they had to settle for a field goal.
"It was like a counter look. I kind of stepped to the left, came back and there was a nice crease on the back side," he said. "I remember reaching out to the pylon, but inches short."
J-JOE RETURN:Former Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph and Bengals rookie wide receiver A.J. Green put on a good show Sunday. Green caught five balls for 59 yards and won a jump ball that Green plucked away from Joseph for 36 yards. But Joseph told The Chronicle after the game he didn't feel like Green won the battle.
"He's going up and making a play on the ball. It wasn't anything different other than he's making a play – that's what they pay him to do and what they pay me to do – to defend," Joseph said. "You try to win more than you lose. Today, I came out with the victory at the end of the day. For me, I'm fine with that result."
The popular Joseph did hobnob before the game, and even though the fans booed him every time he made a tackle or touched the ball, he felt welcome.
"I came out, talked to all of the guys and coaches and, actually, a lot of the fans were cheering me, telling me I should have been here," Joseph said. "That was kind of good to hear, but for the most part, I just wanted to focus on winning the game."