HOUSTON - J.J. Watt swatted away passes, Arian Foster ran away from tacklers and the Houston Texans did just enough to knock Cincinnati out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
Matt Schaub made his first postseason start a successful one when Foster's 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter helped the Texans to a 19-13 AFC wild-card win over the Bengals on Saturday.
"The whole stadium knew we had to line up and run the ball and boy, he was at his best there at the end," coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's become a fine, fine player, and it just seems like the bigger it gets, the better Arian gets."
Now comes the big test. The Texans (13-4) move on to the second round on Jan. 13, when they visit the New England Patriots, who beat them 42-14 in Week 14. This time they're 9 1/2-point underdogs.
"It's one step," Watt said of the win. "We know what it means, and we have bigger goals than that."
He's glad the team got back on track this week, but knows Houston will have to play better to beat the Patriots.
"They know what they're doing in the playoffs," Watt said. "They've been here many times before. They know what it takes, so it's going to take everything we have and we're really excited about the challenge."
Foster said he isn't planning to watch too much film of Houston's loss to the Patriots.
"They're a new team, we're a new team," Foster said. "Anytime you play a team twice in a season ... you have to attack it differently. It's a different mentality. Different things are at stake."
Shayne Graham kicked four field goals for the Texans, while Foster finished with 140 yards and became the first NFL player to have 100-yard games in each of his first three playoff games.
Watt finished with a sack and swatted away two of Andy Dalton's pass attempts, once wagging his finger at the Bengals quarterback after the play.
"I think it was a full defensive effort, everybody was flying around and we were getting off the field on third downs," Watt said.
The Texans defense smothered Dalton and the Bengals early. Their second drive ended when Connor Barwin tackled BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 6-yard loss and Watt followed with a sack of Dalton.
Houston's offense had the ball for almost 39 minutes as it ate up the clock with a season-high 32 carries from Foster.
"We controlled the line of scrimmage, and any time we do that it's going to be hard to beat us," Foster said.
The Texans had trouble finishing drives and managed three field goals in the first half against the Bengals (10-7). Houston struck first after the break, with Foster scoring the game's only offensive touchdown to make it 16-7.
Schaub, who missed last year's playoffs with a foot injury, had an interception returned for a touchdown by Leon Hall before halftime.
"It was never easy," Schaub said. "Cincinnati is a great team. I made a turnover and gave them points. We just had to rally around each other and we did that."
Johnathan Joseph, a former Bengal, came up with an interception for the Texans, who kept Cincinnati without a playoff win since the 1990 season, the league's longest current streak.
Houston had struggled on third downs lately. This time, the Texans didn't let the Bengals convert a third down on nine tries.
The Texans rebounded from a terrible month where they lost three of four games and the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The win came in front of a record crowd of 71,738, including former Oilers great Earl Campbell.