HOUSTON - Left tackle Andrew Whitworth put Sunday's 22-13 victory over the Texans at NRG Stadium right there with the victories in Baltimore and Pittsburgh and other ghosts that have bedeviled the Green-Dalton Bengals.
"This is one of the monsters we hadn't beaten yet," Whitworth said of a win a building where the Bengals saw their seasons die in back-to-back Wild Card Games in 2011 and 2012. "This was a little bit personal. They robbed us of what we've thought were pretty high playoff hopes." ….
It was really personal for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, brutal in those two playoff games where he had no touchdowns and threw four interceptions in his hometown. He did throw a pick six Sunday for the Texans' only TD, but he also threw a TD to cap a 94-yard drive that set the tone of the game in the middle of the first half in raising his road record to 17-12.
Dalton signed his game jersey for father, celebrating a birthday, checking to make sure he had the date and final score correct…
If you're looking for a microcosm of the Bengals' victory, a Cliff Notes version of the win over the Texans, look no further than the second-quarter safety when nose tackle Domata Peko and Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins led a charge that dumped rookie running back Alfred Blue for a one-yard loss in the end zone and gave the Bengals a 9-0 lead.
It typified how the Bengals shut down a Houston running game that the week before steamrolled Cleveland behind Blue's 156 yards. But for the second straight week, the Bengals held a hot rusher to 2.9 yards per rush and on Sunday they did it against the Texans' zone-blocking scheme that had tortured this defense for 4.8 yards per carry in their three previous meetings. With running back Arian Foster (293 yards in the last two games against Cincinnati), sidelined with a groin injury Blue had just 46 yards on 16 carries while the Bengals held the ball for an astonishing 39:10.
That soft run defense of a few weeks ago? For the second straight week the defense made a game-changing play on the shadow of a goal line. Against New Orleans it was a fourth-and-one goal-line stand. Sunday it was their second safety of the year with Atkins getting credit for the tackle.
"We wanted to stop the run and force (Ryan) Mallett to beat us. Things went our way today," Peko said.
Welcome to first-and-10 from the Texans 1 after the Bengals failed to convert a fourth-and-one. Before the next snap, safety Reggie Nelson moved down into the box and showed blitz to the left side of the Texans offensive line. Peko says Mallett, in his second NFL start, checked the run to the other side and the Bengals were waiting. Peko, working against Pro Bowl center Chris Myers, got leverage on him and began the flow that stretched out Blue.
"It all started with penetration," Peko said. "We played our technique better (against the Texans). We were blocking out guys and pushing linemen around. We were being smart and getting penetration up the field and filling lanes, he had nowhere to go.
"They were going to run it weak and then he checked it," Peko said of the safety. "We were kind of all over there cheating a little bit. Everybody just came downhill."
The linebackers led the way in tackles with WILL backer Vincent Rey racking up 10, SAM backer Emmanuel Lamur eight, and middle backer Rey Maualuga contributing six more and a huge interception to start the second half in his second game back from a hamstring injury.
"We're getting back to our old selves from the first three games and the Big Uso, Big Rey, is back having big games for us. But it all starts up front. If we just dominate up front and take care of the offensive line, we can win as many games as we do that."...
The Bengals got a huge boost from backup right tackle Marshall Newhouse, thrust into the game early in the second quarter when Andre Smith suffered what has been reported as a partially torn triceps muscle by ProFootballTalk.com. That put Newhouse head up on J.J. Watt, the guy that figures to be the NFL MVP.
Newhouse got occasional help from right guard Kevin Zeitler, but mainly he was with the 9.5-sack man one-on-one most of the day.
"I could have blocked him better," Newhouse said. "But we won and I don't remember him making many impact plays. At the end of the day, it was a pretty good day."
He didn't. He didn't have a sack and his one pass defensed came on the play Smith got hurt.
The only dent Watt made is when he poked Newhouse in his left eye. Newhouse, his eye blood-shot, missed just one snap. Left guard Clint Boling moved to right tackle to take his first NFL snap at that spot. But the alignment with Mike Pollak at left guard only lasted for a play, which was the failed fourth-and-one. Then Newhouse came back. He said he'll go to an eye doctor Monday but said he felt OK even though he had about 70 percent vision until it stopped being blurry.
"I think it was adrenaline," Newhouse said. "I was sliding to him. I think he went to bull me and his hand got up in there and I felt it immediately."....
The Bengals are holding their breath on Smith's MRI on Monday. They're not sure if it is partially torn and they need to get in there to see how bad it is to determine if he's done for the year...
With 121 yards, Green enjoyed his 19th 100-yard game and moved past Cris Collinsworth into a tie for third on the Bengals' all-time list with Carl Pickens. Isaac Curtis is next at 20 and then he'll have to wait next year to go after Chad Johnson's club-record 31....
Green's 12 catches were a personal best, one shy of Pickens' club record against the Steelers in 1998. A Bengal has caught a dozen passes in a game, the last one wide receiver Jerome Simpson in the last game of the 2010 season, a 13-7 loss in Baltimore....
Green said his toe felt 100 percent for the first time since the opener...
He did take the blame for cornerback Johnathan Joseph's pick six on the sideline that served as the Texans only touchdown: "The pick was J.Joe being a crafty vet just sitting on it. My fault. i should have broken it up. I should have shielded him. I felt him coming. But good play by him."