Quick hits: Disappointed but hopeful

Andy Dalton and Andrew Whitworth walk off the field disappointed with the 31-10 loss but hopeful for the Bengals future.

» A bittersweet feeling hung over the Bengals locker room as they digested Saturday's 31-10 loss in the AFC Wild Card game.

"You're disappointed," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said, "but this is the first year in my six seasons that at the end of the season I think that we have a lot to look forward to. We've got that 'it' we want. We just have to find a way to groom it."

» Safety Chris Crocker, shaking his head over a dropped interception that could have tied the game, felt like the Bengals will be back soon.

"There's a lot of youth in here," Crocker said. "They're going to play a lot of games like this one."

With the Texans leading 17-10 in the middle of the third quarter, Houston quarterback T.J. Yates tried to hit tight end Owen Daniels over the middle at about the Cincinnati 40 except he threw it right to Crocker flying up the field.

"I feel like I catch that ball nine out of 10 times and I didn't catch it at one of the biggest possible moments," Crocker said. "I feel bad enough. I just dropped it. It was an easy interception. I don't know if I was thinking what I was going to do when I got it."

And that was the difference in the game. Crocker dropped his interception and Texans defensive J.J. Watt didn't drop his. With the score tied at 10 late in the first half Watt made an unbelievable interception when he simply leaped up in front of an Andy Dalton pass and grabbed it for a 29-yard touchdown interception return that gave the Texans the lead for good at 17-10 with 52 seconds left in the game.

"It was a great play; it changed the game," Whitworth said. "That's why I was saying this week, in the playoffs the great plays are what separates teams."

Watt leaped in front of right guard Mike McGlynn, who was as surprised as anybody.

"About all you can say is it was a good play on his part," said McGlynn, who did what he was supposed to do and kept Watt away from the quarterback.

"By the time I realized he caught it it was too late," McGlynn said.

» The Bengals playmakers struggled against Houston's top five defense. Rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, who had four catches for 42 yards in the first half, had just one reception in the second half to finish with five for 47 yards. Green said the Texans made an adjustment after that first half, when he also forced a 52-yard pass interference penalty.

"They got out of man (coverage) after I got a few touches," Green said. "They went (Cover 2) zone and rolled it to my side. They bracketed me when I was in the slot."

» Green said his sprained shoulder that he's been playing with since the second half of the Dec. 18 game at St. Louis did not affect him on Saturday.

"It's hard when you've got zone coverage and that safety is sitting 30 yards behind you," Green said. "It's hard to get the deep ball. We'll learn from this and get beter next year." » Not only did the Texans hold down Green but they didn't allow tight end Jermaine Gresham a catch until 20 seconds were left in the third quarter. He finished with five catches for 46 yards. Dalton finished 27-of-42 but he tied his career high for interceptions with three and he was sacked four times, the most sacks the Bengals have allowed since they gave the Browns four in the season opener. On that day backup Bruce Gradkowski also got sacked, so it was the most times Dalton got sacked all year.

» Along with shutting down the Cincinnati passing game the Texans held the Bengals to just 76 yards rushing on 19 attempts. Whitworth said the Texans often used an extra linebacker and dared the bengals to throw deep, "but they were doing things in the secondary to take that away."

» While Green's longest catch was 21 yards, five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson broke open the game against a second-and-eight blitz with a 40-yard touchdown bomb running past cornerback Adam Jones for the killing touchdown that gave the Texans a 24-10 lead with 1:08 left in the third quarter.

Jones stood in front of his locker and took responsibility. A few snaps earlier he had injured his foot and limped off, but he said the injury had nothing to do with Johnson beating him on a double move. Jones indicated the Texans had run that route four times but it had turned into a comeback route each time. On third-and nine, Jones knew a comeback route to the first-down marker was a possibility. 

"I just didn't make the play," Jones said. "I should have kept my eyes on him instead of looking back at the quarterback."

» Jones is a free agent but he expressed his hope to return.

"They've got a great future here," he said. "They've got a lot of good young guys that want to win."

» Dalton set a career best with those 42 attempts but his 51.4 rating was the second lowest of his career. The only effort lower was in the 13-8 loss to San Francisco when he had no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 40.8 rating.

The third pick came in the last desperate stretch when he overthrew Green on a deep ball down the right sideline. Safety Daneial Manning came from thhe middle to pick it with 7:01.

"I was told to throw it to A.J.," Dalton said.

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