Top 10 list


A.J. Green

Ten stats to prep for Wild Card week that culminates in the Bengals' effort to win their first road playoff game in history Saturday (4:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) at Houston.

1 - When Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Houston's T.J. Yates tee up their rematch from Dec. 11, it is the first time in NFL history rookie quarterbacks face off in a playoff game, according to the statmasters at Elias.

9-8 - The Bengals record against rookie quarterbacks as they head into their 147th game under head coach Marvin Lewis. That last loss came courtesy of Yates and his 300-yard day at PBS in which 128 of them came in the final 11:35 as the Bengals lost a 19-10 lead in the 20-19 heartbreaker. The Bengals are 2-7 against winning and .500 teams and have lost those seven by an average of eight points.

"Not beating ourselves," safety Chris Crocker said when asked how the Bengals can get over the hump against the better teams. "Constantly we've just given up simple plays, easy plays. I'll take share of the blame just like everyone else. It's not just one person; it's a group effort. It's just been one of those things this year where we've had to learn lessons how to lose games."

11 - With the Texans finishing ranked second in defense, this marks the 11th game the Bengals are playing a defense that finished this season in the top 10 of the NFL rankings. Cincinnati is 4-6 and after throwing no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Ravens, Dalton has 11 TDs and 10 interceptions against the top 10.

3-0 - Dalton's record at Reliant Field with two wins coming in high school and one at TCU. Dalton and his dad Greg each won a playoff game in the Astrodome, the Oilers old home.

"It'll be a lot of fun. I'm sure I'll have a lot of people there that are from Katy, right outside of Houston, or just a lot of family and friends. It'll be fun to go and play there," Dalton said. "It's no more pressure. I expect a lot out of myself. I'm not going to worry about any of that other stuff. I'm just going to go out and play the game."

17 - It's how many points the Texans have averaged in the three games since they beat the Bengals with 10 points in the last six minutes, all losses. On Monday, Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Yates gets the start despite his separated non-throwing shoulder.

"All indications are that he will be ready to go next weekend," Kubiak said Monday. "Obviously we got to get him back on the practice field and to feel good and confident about that, but all indications are that we will get there and do it day-to-day. As far as all that other stuff, I don't know. We'll see how he does."

20 - Not only did Dalton become the first rookie quarterback in history to throw for 20touchdowns while starting nine victories, but new Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden installed a new playbook without the benefit of offseason workouts. Cincinnati's No. 20 ranking isn't what Gruden is seeking, but it matched what the Bengals did last year with five more wins on 22 more points.

"It's exciting. I'm excited for these guys," Gruden said Sunday in the locker room. "They bust their tail every day. These guys came in, bought in, never complained. I just stayed the course and they're going to get better as the season goes on. Unfortunately we didn't win today, but it doesn't matter. We're in the playoffs because we set up ourselves in good position."

55 - Since he staked his team to a 16-3 halftime lead over the Texans three weeks ago,the Bengals have scored just five touchdowns. Dalton has thrown for two of them, but his 55 percent passing in that stretch has driven his final percentage for the season below 60 percent to 58.1.

For the first time all season in Sunday's 24-16 loss to the Ravens, Dalton looked out of sorts. A relentless pass rush from the NFL's third-ranked defense and a 20 mile-per-hour wind that gusted to almost twice as much didn't help as he missed some throws as well as some receivers that were open, but weren't targeted. Three of his passes were tipped by a pass rusher or defensive linemen.

Since connecting with wide receiver A.J. Green for a 55-yarder in the first quarter of the Rams win on Dec. 18, the longest pass to a wide receiver has been a 26-yarder to Andrew Hawkins.

"We're inconsistent in a lot of different areas. We've got to come up with better plays, we've got to put them in better positions," Gruden said. "We have to take advantage some looks. We need to call (deep) shot plays and we called a bunch of them today. We've got to hit some of them. (The wind) was a big factor and they were playing a lot softer defense than we anticipated with a lot of two deep safety looks. We had to take what they gave us. Hit the seams. Shorter passes. They did a good job of mixing it up and keeping us off balance."

62.3 percent - Dalton had three passes that were tipped by a pass rusher or defensive linemen Sunday. But Gruden said that wasn't the problem. It was the two whiffs on third-and-two or less early in the game, making the Bengals 62.3 percent on third-and-two or less this season. That is 10th in the league, but while they were 2-for-4 on third-and-two or less, the Ravens were 5-for-5 and got running back Ray Rice's clinching 51-yard touchdown on third-and-one.

"There's nothing you can do about a lot of tipped balls. We just have to try and find windows and step around pressure and make the throws," Gruden said. "That really wasn't the problem with the offense today. I think the conversions on third-and-short.  Three times we left the field we left the field fourth and an inch. We have to do a better job of getting that.

"We have to keep pounding it and keep working on that part of our game. Cedric (Benson) and (Bernard) Scott will find a lane. We just have to get our pad level down offensive line-wise and we'll hit one. Hopefully next week."

2 - Speaking of an offensive line that keeps its pads low, the Texans have one of the best units in the league and it's reflected in the No. 2 ranking in NFL rushing. And Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko agrees because he said it moments after Rice finished off his 191-yard effort Sunday.

"We can't do that against Arian Foster and (Ben) Tate," Peko said of Houston's two-headed backfield that trades 100-yard games.

What the Bengals did was let Rice pop two touchdown runs of 70 and 51 yards. On both runs, there were no plays behind blocked middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. With safety Chris Crocker blitzing, the Ravens lured safety Reggie Nelson to the other side on a fake reverse to wide receiver Torrey Smith to open up the 70-yarder. With Crocker again blitzing on the 51-yarder, Rice jetted past falling Bengals at the second level.

Take away those two runs and the Bengals held Rice to 70 yards on 22 carries. Out of 52 plays, the defense played pretty well on about 44 of them, but it wasn't enough.

Peko thinks he sees a trend. The bigger the game, it seems, the more the Bengals try to do too much and get out of gaps.

"We've got to clean it up," he said.

14.9 - Green has 16.3 yards per catch compared to Andre Johnson's 14.9. Johnson, Houston'sgreat multiple Pro Bowl wide receiver, has been hampered by a bevy of hamstring problems but is rounding into form just in time, which could set up a game pitting the AFC's most dominant receiver of the last decade against the most dominant receiver of this one.

Baltimore's Cover 2 and the Bengals good coverage on the outside thwarted Sunday's long-ball showdown between Green and Ravens rookie Torrey Smith.

In the last five games, or since Green literally ran away with the Cleveland game in the last minute, teams have been paying a lot more attention to hm. After that game, he was averaging 17 yards per catch. In the last five, he's at Johnson's 14.9.

"They were clouding my side," Green said Sunday. "It's tough with Ed Reed clouding you with his ball skills.

"I just have to be patient. It will get there."

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