Texans Beat Bengals, Patriots Up Next

Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph (24) celebrates his interception with Danieal Manning (38), J.J. Watt (99), Shiloh Keo (31) and Bradie James (53) during the third quarter of an NFL wild card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

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By Grant Burkhardt

HOUSTON, Tx. (AP) - Matt Schaub called it excitement. The look on the faces of Texans players and coaches looked more like relief.

Houston held off Cincinnati 19-13 Saturday in the wild-card round. The victory was built on the rushing of Arian Foster and solid defense, and reversed a slide that saw them lose three of their last four regular-season games to blow home-field advantage in the AFC. That slump began with a 42-14 loss at New England — exactly where they head next Sunday.

"I'm excited," said quarterback Schaub, who was injured for Houston's first playoff appearance a year ago. "First time having a chance to be on the field with my guys in the playoffs after last season, it's a great feeling to come away with a win.

"We just had to rally around each other and we did that."

Foster gained 140 yards, becoming the first player with at least 100 yards rushing in his first three postseason games. He scored on a 1-yard run and also had eight receptions.

"It only takes one week to turn things around in the NFL and we did that," said Foster, whose team lost to Minnesota and Indianapolis to slip to the AFC's third seed.

Cincinnati (10-7) gained only 198 yards and had 12 first downs. Its touchdown came on Leon Hall's interception return.

"I think it was a full defensive effort," end J.J. Watt said. "Everybody was flying around, everybody was having fun."

With a second straight wild-card loss in Houston, the Bengals extended one of the NFL's longest playoff droughts. They haven't won a postseason game since the 1990 season.

They got two field goals from Josh Brown, and Andy Dalton overthrew an open A.J. Green in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.

Along with Foster's touchdown, the Texans (13-4) got four field goals from Shayne Graham.

As for facing the AFC East champion Patriots, Foster didn't seem fazed.

"I'm not a big believer in momentum," Foster said. "Every Sunday you have to come out and bring your best or you can get beat on any day."

Later Saturday, it was Minnesota (10-6) at Green Bay (11-5) in the NFC.

On Sunday, the Beltway will be buzzing. First, AFC North champion Baltimore hosts Indianapolis. Then NFC East winner Washington plays Seattle.

While Houston (13-4) heads to Foxborough next weekend, AFC West winner Denver (13-3) will host either Baltimore or Indianapolis. NFC South champ Atlanta (13-3) and NFC West winner San Francisco (11-4-1) also had byes.

Colts (11-5) at Ravens (10-6)

From Ray Lewis' pending retirement to Chuck Pagano's return to Baltimore to the history of these two franchises, this game has all kinds of intriguing story lines.

Lewis announced this week he will end his 17-year career as one of the NFL's premier players, let alone linebackers, after the playoffs. He's hoping for a long run duplicating the 2000 season, when he was Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP.

"That moment I walk out of that tunnel Sunday, every person that was a Ravens fan — 1996 to this day — we will all enjoy that moment," he said. "It will probably be one of the glorious moments in my life."

Pagano spent four seasons coaching defense in Baltimore, then landed the head coaching job in Indy. He missed 12 games while undergoing treatments for leukemia and came back last week in a win over Houston.

Now he's back in Baltimore.

And he knows all about the history of the Colts leaving for Indianapolis in Mayflower moving vans in the middle of the night in 1984.

"Yeah, because when this opportunity presented itself, I remember seeing the paper when I left town," Pagano joked. "I was driving a Mayflower out of town, so I fully understand. They had me in the cab, if I remember right."

Seahawks (11-5) at Redskins (10-6)

Two streaking teams with sensational rookie quarterbacks, making it three such starters in action Sunday; Andrew Luck leads the Colts.

Washington took its final seven games to grab its division title. QB Robert Griffin III (102.4) had the best single-season rookie passer rating in NFL history; Seattle's Russell Wilson was next at 100.0. Griffin also set a league mark for yards rushing by a rookie QB (815).

Wilson threw 26 TD passes, tying Peyton Manning's NFL rookie record set in 1998.

"He's a playmaker. He's a football player. He makes plays running around, like a video game, buying time for the receivers, taking off with the football himself," Redskins veteran linebacker London Fletcher said.

He was talking about Wilson; could have been about Griffin, as well.

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