NFL News & Analysis

CIN-HOU grades: Texans’ front-seven dominates against run

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals is sacked by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans in the second quarter at NRG Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Houston Texans 12, Cincinnati Bengals 10

Here are the top-graded players and biggest storylines from Houston’s Week 16 win over Cincinnati to clinch a playoff spot. 

Houston Texans

Quarterback grade: Tom Savage, 65.5

Savage earns average grade in first start

Making his first career NFL start, Tom Savage had a forgettable night. Savage took care of the ball and didn’t record any turnovers, but also didn’t do much to advance the Texans' offense down the field. He attempted just six passes 10-plus yards downfield, completing three for 49 yards. He didn’t attempt a single deep pass 20-plus yards downfield. Savage did have to deal with being under pressure on half of his 34 dropbacks, and had an adjusted completion percentage of 80.0 percent when under duress.

Tom Savage vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

LT Duane Brown, 81.0

C Greg Mancz, 77.5

HB Alfred Blue, 67.4

WR Will Fuller, 62.1

LG Xavier Su’a-Filo

Offense creates little production versus Bengals’ defense

DeAndre Hopkins had one of the worst games you will see from him. He caught three passes for 43 yards on six targets, but also dropped a pass and was called for two offensive pass interference penalties. With lead-back Lamar Miller out, Alfred Blue received the majority of playing time. He had a nice 24-yard touchdown run where he was untouched, but otherwise averaged just 2.6 yards per carry on his other 21 runs and didn’t force a single missed tackle. Jeff Allen, Chris Clark, and Xavier Su’a-Filo allowed four or more total QB pressures each.

Top defensive grades:

CB A.J. Bouye, 90.4

CB Kareem Jackson, 81.6

OLB Whitney Mercilus, 81.3

OLB Jadeveon Clowney, 80.8

DT Vince Wilfork, 79.0

Texans’ front-seven dominates against the run

Houston’s defense overwhelmed the Bengals, especially in the run game. DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney led the team with an 84.3 run-defense grade, and is enjoying his best season as a pro. Clowney ranks fourth among all NFL edge defenders in run defense grade for 2016, and also has career highs in sacks, pass-rush grade, and snaps played. Defensive linemen Vince Wilfork, D.J. Reader, and Christian Covington were unmovable at times, and OLB Whitney Mercilus recorded two sacks and five hurries. CB A.J. Bouye had three pass breakups in the game, and currently ranks seventh among all NFL cornerbacks in coverage grade this season.

Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback grade: Andy Dalton, 58.0

Dalton’s slide continues

After a strong start to the 2016 season, Bengals QB Andy Dalton has now earned below-average grades in five of his last eight games. Dalton finished just one for eight for 21 yards on passes thrown more than 10 yards in the air, and was ineffective both against the blitz and under pressure (four of nine for 10 yards, three sacks). The Bengals’ biggest pass play of the night came on a routine slant that WR Brandon LaFell took 86 yards for a touchdown.

Andy Dalton vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

WR Brandon LaFell, 78.4

G Andrew Whitworth, 69.2

G Kevin Zeitler, 68.9

HB Jeremy Hill, 67.2

WR Cody Core, 53.6

Offensive line woes sink Bengals

Cincinnati used its first two draft picks in 2015 on offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, and both players have been disappointments to this point. Ogbuehi and Fisher were the starting offensive tackles in this game, and each earned below-average grades for both pass protection (two sacks, one hurry allowed by Ogbuehi; one sack and four hurries allowed by Fisher) and run blocking. The Bengals’ run blocking was completely ineffective throughout the game, as running backs Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead combined for just 50 rushing yards on 19 carries, despite forcing five missed tackles.

Top defensive grades:

DT Geno Atkins, 84.8

S George Iloka, 84.6

DE Carlos Dunlap, 84.0

LB Karlos Dansby, 83.0

LB Vincent Rey, 79.6

Bengals’ defensive line puts pressure on QB

The Bengals were able to pressure Savage regularly, and were led by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, who had a sack and four hurries each. Six of the nine defensive lineman that played had multiple pressures. They also fared well against the run. Domata Peko had three run stops, while Atkins, Pat Sims, and Will Clarke had two run stops each.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Texans CB A.J. Bouye

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

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