Houston Texans beat Cincinnati Bengals with walk-off field goal

Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Hilton, right, recovers a fumble by Houston Texans quarterback C.J....
Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Hilton, right, recovers a fumble by Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud as he is tackled by Houston Texans wide receiver Robert Woods (2) as Bengals' DJ Turner II (20) reaches in during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)(Michael Conroy | AP)
Published: Nov. 12, 2023 at 4:29 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) - When Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow dropped back in the pocket and went through his reads, he didn’t have many options.

Burrow, who had been on the best run of his career, saw the Houston Texans double teaming wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who was limited due to a back injury. Burrow saw wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who was struggling separating from linebackers and made two terrible drops on Sunday.Burrow saw a rotation of backup receivers filling in for wide receiver Tee Higgins, who was out with a hamstring injury. He saw an offense that couldn’t run the ball and an offensive line that struggled in protection for the first time in a month.

The Texans snapped the Bengals back to reality in a 30-27 loss for Cincinnati at Paycor Stadium. The Texans snapped the Bengals’ four-game winning streak, and they became the first team to beat Burrow after he fully healed from his calf strain.

In a tie game with 37 seconds left, the Texans marched 55 yards down the field. Texans kicker Matt Ammendola, who was a free agent one week ago, made a 38-yard field goal in the final seconds.

Now, the Bengals are 5-4. It’s the same record that they had through nine games last year, but it’ll be an even tougher road in a crowded AFC and a historically deep AFC North.

The Bengals took an early 7-0 lead, but Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud picked apart the Bengals’ defense all day. He took advantage of a disappointing day in the Bengals’ secondary as the Texans took a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

As the Texans tried to run out the clock, Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt brought a pick back to the Texans’ 4-yard line and set up a Bengals touchdown that made it a 3-point game.

The Bengals got the ball back with 2:10 left, and they made it to the Texans’ 7-yard line following a 64-yard throw to Tyler Boyd. Then Burrow took a sack on first down, and Boyd dropped a potential go-ahead touchdown. When the Texans got the ball back, Stroud put the game away.

At first, it looked like Burrow was going to stomp past the Texans just like he did against the Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49ers. The Bengals took an early 7-0 lead on a drive where Burrow completed five passes to fourth-string tight end Tanner Hudson and threw a 32-yard touchdown to wide receiver Trenton Irwin.

Burrow totaled just 49 yards for the rest of the first half as the Texans took a 10-7 lead into the break. The Bengals’ offensive line didn’t give him enough time to scramble around the pocket, improvise and make a big play happen. Before catching a 64-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, Chase was used as more of a decoy. The Bengals didn’t run any of their usual bubble screens or quick plays that get him the ball and rely on his ability to break tackles, and Chase only caught one pass in the first half.

The Bengals missed Higgins’ ability to overpower undersized corners. Burrow had to get rid of the ball quickly, and he couldn’t find a receiver who was winning quickly in a one-on-one matchup. Aside from Burrow’s deep touchdown throws to Chase and Irwin, the offense had no rhythm.

The Bengals couldn’t find anything that would consistently work against an injury-riddled Texans defense that allowed 37 points last week. At one point, the Bengals’ offense had four consecutive three-and-outs. In the second half, there were drops. There were blitzes that the Bengals failed to recognize. There was a false start penalty, and no one could break a tackle. Right when the Bengals looked like it was finding life in the third quarter, Burrow took a sack.

On the other side, rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud played better against the Bengals than any other quarterback has this season. He completed four 20-plus yard completions in the first half. The Bengals’ young secondary looked like it had worked through early-season communication issues, but those mistakes were back on Sunday.

When Stroud was able to buy time in the pocket, a receiver would inevitably get open. On one play, cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt pointed to safety Dax Hill to pass off an assignment in zone coverage, but Hill didn’t pick it up and allowed a big reception down the field.

Two red zone turnovers by the Texans kept it a one-score game at halftime, but then the Bengals allowed two more deep throws on the Texans’ first drive of the second half. Houston took a 13-7 lead on a field goal, and Stroud started the next drive by creating a 42-yard gain on a defensive pass interference penalty by Bengals cornerback DJ Turner.

Two plays later, the Texans scored a touchdown and took a 20-7 lead. Burrow provided a spark with a 64-yard touchdown to Chase in the final minute of the third quarter. Stroud responded by leading the Texans right down the field. He led a 75-yard touchdown drive on just six plays that put the Texans up, 27-17.

The Bengals made an unlikely comeback, but it was too little too late.

One week after MVP candidate Josh Allen played his worst game of the season when he faced the Bengals’ defense, Stroud carved up the Bengals’ defense. Their defensive line created consistent pressure last week, but Stroud had all day against a Bengals pass rush that was missing defensive end Sam Hubbard.

The Bengals have been one of the best teams in the NFL over the last few years because they never make the types of errors that they had on Sunday. The Texans caught the Bengals flat-footed. Now, heading into a short week and a road Thursday night game against the first-place Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati’s shot at a division title is slipping away.

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