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Quick hits: Obvious disappointment

Leon Hall

» Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis looked pretty grimafter his playoff record dropped to 0-4.

"We have to keep banging on the door until we break it down," Lewis said. "A lot of good guys did great things but this is disappointing to me, and it's disappointing to the (players). We've got to find out a way to push it over the hump."

» Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton suffered the second-worst passer rating of his career at 44.8. The only game worse was a 40 rating in a 13-8 loss to San Francisco last season in his third NFL start.

» The most astounding thing about Saturday's game was that Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green wasn't targeted until he caught a pass with 10:15 left in the third quarter.

"They weren't necessarily taking him away," Dalton said. "We just had designs where we were going to other guys. We saw the way they were playing and it was a good matchup. We had a couple of chances. We just didn't make the play."

» The Texans were playing a Cover 2 at times and the Bengals thought they could exploit Houston's suspect safeties with tight end Jermaine Gresham, but Gresham dropped a couple of passes early.

"We were trying to get Jermaine involed early, trying to get some of those other guys going," Dalton said. "I have to do a better job of making sure A.J. gets his catches. He's one of the best receivers in this league. He needs to have the ball thrown his way a lot and I need to get other guys involved as well."

» Green finished with five catches for 80 yards and a 45-yarder was his first plus-40-yard play since Nov. 25. It looked like he got open for the potential game-winner on a third-and-11 from the Houston 36 with 2:57 remaining, but Dalton overthrew him.

"I had him beat," Green said. "I laid out, but I still couldn't get my hands on it."

» Green isn't sure what happened to him in the first half.

"All I can do is run my routes," he said. "It's nothing we hadn't seen before. They were rolling to my side. They had a safety present underneath but it wasn't anything we hadn't seen. Sometimes it happens that way."

» Both Lewis and left tackle Andrew Whitworth chalked up the difference in the game to third down inefficiency and negative plays on first and second down, which kept making it third and long for the offense.

Of the nine third-down opportunities, five were 10 yards or more.

"I don't care what offense it is; nobody can keep converting third downs that long in the NFL," Whitworth said.

» Whitworth was philosophical about another playoff loss.

"The Texans are a perfect example for us," he said. "They kept knocking on the door and last year they finally broke through. We have to keep knocking at that door. We're seriously young. We'll get better. My job is to make us better."

» The Bengals defense that had 51 sacks in the regular season, second-most in the league, had none on Saturday. Defensive end Robert Geathers said it was because the Bengals allowed the Texans too much on first and second down in the running game.

"We couldn't get them in third and long," Geathers said. "It always seemed like it was third-and-two or third-and-three. That let them play-action and (Texans quarterback Matt Schaub) was able to get the ball out quickly."

» The Bengals in the last eight games had allowed just 97 yards per game on the ground and hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Oct. 21 against the Steelers and running back Jonathan Dwyer, but Texans running back Arian Foster did the same thing he did last year. Last season it was 153 yards on 24 carries. This year it was 140 yards on 32 carries.

"They did a good job spreading us out," right end Michael Johnson said. "They were putting tight ends in the slot and did whatever they could to try and take the backers out of the box."

» Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga admitted he struggled.

"The game plan was good. Everything was fine. I have no answer," he said. "I didn't perform the way I was capable of or the way I thought I could have performed."

» Cornerback Leon Hall came up with another big game for the second time in three weeks in what was basically an elimination game. After getting a pick-six against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers on Dec. 23 for Cincinnati's only touchdown, he did it again Saturday, this one coming with 9:30 left in the first half on a 21-yard return he undercut a short sideline route of Texans fullback James Casey.

"He threw it right at me; I don't think he saw me," Hall said. "It was a perfect call because I was out there on the guy and I glanced at (Schaub's) eyes and at the same time I got a good feel for the receiver."

» The Bengals corners did a good job taking away Texans Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson, who had 112 catches in the regular season. Johnson had just four catches for 62 yards on Saturday, including Houston's longest completion of the day, which was only 22 yards.

The guy that hurt the Bengals was tight end Owen Daniels, who had nine catches for 91 yards.

» The Texans evened the turnover battle early in the third quarter when Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, the former Bengal who covered Green all day, picked off a ball in the middle of the field and ran it back 14 yards to the Bengals 26. The play appeared to be the classic not being on the same page.

"I didn't get my head around in time," Green said.

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