Texans win franchise’s first playoff game, 31-10 over Bengals

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Houston used six draft picks on defensive players. The Texans took Watt with the 11th overall pick, a cornerstone for the reconstruction of the defense. He started all 16 games and led the team with 13 tackles for loss.

But he’d never picked off a pass.

Watt saw this one coming, measuring his jump when Dalton dropped back and snatching the ball with both hands. He sprinted to the end zone as the capacity crowd erupted, and he raised both hands after reaching the end zone.

“I was really just trying to put my hands up and get in the way of the passing lane,” the 6-foot-5 Watt said. “It happened to kind of stick. I realized I had the ball so I just ran to the end zone just trying not to fall down.”

Watt became the sixth defensive linemen to return an interception for a touchdown in postseason history — excluding the Super Bowl — and the first rookie to do it.

“It changed the momentum of the game,” Houston linebacker Brian Cushing said.

Dalton rolled his eyes and shook his head as he walked to the Cincinnati bench and watched the replay on the giant scoreboard. It was just his second interception in his last seven games.

“We feel like we have a bright future,” Dalton said. “It’s still unfortunate that it ended this way.”

The Bengals outplayed the Texans for most of the first half before that, holding down Houston’s offense and controlling time of possession.

Late in the third quarter, Yates got away with a pass that safety Chris Crocker simply dropped. Three plays later, Johnson broke free from cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones and caught Yates’ pass down the sideline to put Houston up 24-10.

“It was a touchdown if I would have caught it,” Crocker said. “They made those big plays and we didn’t and that’s why they’re moving on.”

As Johnson rested on the bench, Foster walked up to him and gave him a bow, the running back’s customary celebration after a touchdown. Foster has said that the bow is a Hindu gesture of respect.

The Texans rallied past the Bengals on Dec. 11 in Cincinnati to earn their first playoff berth. But they didn’t look like they’d last very long after dropping their last three regular-season games.

Johnson said the losing streak proved to be beneficial.

“Everybody was riding high, the city was going crazy, we were in the playoffs for the first time,” Johnson said. “Over those last three weeks, that brought us back down to reality and let us know what we needed to do.”

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