Houston shocks Bengals
CINCINNATI — Matt Schaub did away with the drama.
Schaub tied his career high by throwing four touchdown passes Sunday, and the Houston Texans — a team that’s had problems at the end of games — pulled away to a 28-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, who never got a final shot.
Everyone knew if it came down to the final minutes, the Texans (3-3) would be at a disadvantage.
‘‘Every game went down to the wire for them,’’ Schaub said. ‘‘Credit goes to them because they were able to find ways to win those games. So it was a matter of putting the game away.’’
The Bengals (4-2) didn’t get a chance for more last-minute magic.
Cincinnati had won three straight games in the last 22 seconds, pulling off improbable finishes after opponents failed to finish them off. They had one late escape on Sunday — Steve Slaton fumbled with the Texans in field-goal range with 6:12 left.
Drama? Not this time. The Bengals fumbled the ball back two plays later, a sign the odds have caught up with them.
‘‘That’s our fault,’’ receiver Chad Ochocinco said. ‘‘We’ve been saying that we can’t keep winning with the way we’ve been playing. We’ve got to be consistent for all four quarters.’’
Not that Schaub left them much of a chance. He picked apart a defense that lost its top pass rusher and a starting tackle in the first quarter, going 28 of 40 for 392 yards, the second-highest total of his career. Last week at Arizona, Schaub set career highs with 35 completions in 50 attempts.
‘‘Matt continues to put up exceptional numbers on the road,’’ coach Gary Kubiak said.
Carson Palmer ran a Bengals offense that stayed in character — not much got done outside the last two minutes. The Bengals scored 10 points in the final 48 seconds of the first half, putting Cincinnati up 17-14. This time, the offense went nowhere in the second half.
Houston’s defense has shut out the last three opponents in the second half, and clinched this one when Brian Cushing intercepted Palmer’s pass with 1:49 left. Palmer, playing with a glove on his left (non-passing) hand to support a sprained thumb, was 23 of 35 for 259 yards.
Texans defensive coordinator Frank Bush challenged his young unit to stop Cedric Benson, who was the NFL’s leading rusher. Benson managed only 44 yards on 16 carries, by far his worst showing of the season.
The Texans allowed only six yards on nine plays in the third quarter, the best third-quarter performance in franchise history.
‘‘It was swarm tackling,’’ cornerback Dunta Robinson said. ‘‘Everybody has a job to do, and today we made this team a one-dimensional team. Overall as a defense, we played well.’’
The Bengals suffered a significant loss when defensive end Antwan Odom — tied for the NFL lead in sacks — suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury that coach Marvin Lewis described as ‘‘probably pretty severe.’’ Tests will determine the extent of the injury.
Odom barged through the line and blocked Kris Brown’s 28-yard field goal try on Houston’s first possession. He hurt his right Achilles’ on Schaub’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Owen Daniels later in the first quarter and was taken off the field on a cart, costing the Bengals their best pass rusher.
They also lost starting defensive tackle Domata Peko to a knee injury in the first quarter, evening things up on the line. The Texans were missing their two starting guards, out with season-ending injuries.
NOTES: There was a moment of silence before the game for Vikki Zimmer, wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. She died unexpectedly of natural causes on Oct. 8. … Former University of Cincinnati star Connor Barwin got his first career sack on Palmer in the third quarter. Barwin had about 70 friends and relatives in the stands. … Schaub’s career high is 414 yards against Green Bay last Dec. 7. … Andre Johnson caught eight passes for 135 yards, and Slaton had six for 102 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown. … Ochocinco had 103 yards on five catches, his first 100-yard receiving day since the final game of the 2007 season. … The Bengals have scored 54 of their 118 points in the final two minutes of halves and overtime.
Houston 7 7 14 0 — 28
Cincinnati 0 17 0 0 — 17
Hou—Daniels 12 pass from Schaub (K.Brown kick), :48.
Cin—Benson 10 run (Graham kick), 11:33.
Hou—Slaton 38 pass from Schaub (K.Brown kick), 7:59.
Cin—Coles 8 pass from C.Palmer (Graham kick), :48.
Cin—FG Graham 50, :00.
Hou—Jones 23 pass from Schaub (K.Brown kick), 11:23.
Hou—Daniels 7 pass from Schaub (K.Brown kick), 2:29.
First downs 26 14
Total NetYards 472 296
Rushes-yards 31-87 17-46
Passing 385 250
Punt Returns 5-47 0-0
Kickoff Returns 3-57 5-85
Interceptions Ret. 1-0 1-18
Comp-Att-Int 28-40-1 23-35-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-7 1-9
Punts 5-35.0 7-47.9
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 7-60 4-45
Time of Possession 36:15 23:45
RUSHING—Houston, C.Brown 9-45, Slaton 19-43, Schaub 3-(minus 1). Cincinnati, Benson 16-44, C.Palmer 1-2.
PASSING—Houston, Schaub 28-40-1-392. Cincinnati, C.Palmer 23-35-1-259.
RECEIVING—Houston, A.Johnson 8-135, Daniels 7-78, Slaton 6-102, Walter 3-29, Jones 2-29, Anderson 1-12, Leach 1-7. Cincinnati, Caldwell 6-57, Ochocinco 5-103, Coles 4-40, Coats 4-32, Benson 2-1, Henry 1-20, Foschi 1-6.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Houston, K.Brown 28 (BK).