No surprise: Kubiak expects Yates to play vs. Bengals

Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates’ shoulder injury is not expected to jeopardize his availability for Saturday’s playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Reliant Stadium.

Yates bruised his non-throwing (left) shoulder in the first quarter on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. With the Texans already locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC, he did not return to the game for precautionary reasons.

“He’s feeling pretty good today,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on Monday. “I mean, he’s sore. Like I said, we still think he could’ve came back in the game yesterday, so all indications are that he’ll be ready to go next weekend. Obviously, we’ve got to get him back on the practice field to feel good and confident about that, but all indications are that we’ll get there. We’ll do it day-to-day.”

After getting injured on the Texans’ first play on Sunday, Yates stayed in the game and completed 4-of-4 passes for 47 yards. He led the offense on a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive.

“If he can play, he’s going to play,” Kubiak said. “He played really well yesterday, was very sharp early in the game. Continues to do good stuff, as I’ve told y’all. He’s very young and this is a big, big game, but he’s the best guy for our football team and if he’s able to go and do the things that we need him to do in practice, then we’ll turn him loose and let him go.”

In six games, Yates has completed 82-of-134 passes (61.2 percent) for 949 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He has a passer rating of 80.7. The fifth-round draft pick from North Carolina threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns at Cincinnati in Week 14, leading the Texans to a 20-19 comeback victory.

Kubiak said he has been impressed with Yates’ preparation behind the scenes.

“Sitting down (with him) the night before a game, answering questions, going through a game plan, his reads and all those things, he’s a very quick thinker on the field,” Kubiak said. “Things happen fast for him. Sometimes they happen a little too fast, and you can see that as a young guy, but he’s very sharp with what we’re trying to go get done on gameday. He handles the group very well. They’ve got a lot of confidence in him. Even though he’s young and has his own issues, he can still help everybody out and seems to be getting better every time that he’s out there.”

Right guard is the only other Texans starter with a significant injury concern heading into Saturday. He has missed the last three games after fracturing his fibula against the Bengals on Dec. 11. Kubiak is hopeful Brisiel can return to practice this week and said he “may be able to contribute this next weekend.”

Kubiak said that offensive tackle (hip), linebacker (neck) and cornerback (back spasms) are all day-to-day.

Turnovers, defensive lapses doom Texans in loss

This time around, the Texans dug themselves a hole too deep.

A week after coming back from a 16-3 first-half deficit at Cincinnati, the Texans trailed the Carolina Panthers 21-0 at halftime on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. They responded with 13 unanswered points but were done in by turnovers and defensive lapses in a 28-13 loss that snapped a seven-game winning streak.

“Congratulations to Carolina,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “They came in here and kicked our butt up and down the field, all three phases. We obviously weren’t ready to play, and that starts with me. We got away with it last week, the same type of play in the first half, and this week we didn’t get away with it.

“We got buried in the first half. We tried to fight our way out of it, but ultimately when you turn the ball over and are as sloppy as we were and give up the big plays we gave up, you’re not gonna win in this league.”

The Texans outgained the Panthers 358-318 but had three turnovers, including two interceptions by rookie quarterback T.J. Yates. Rookie quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers had zero. It was the first time all season that the Texans did not force a turnover.

Playing without defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is on a medical leave of absence, the Texans allowed more than 20 points for the first time since Oct. 16 at Baltimore, which is also the last time they lost. Linebackers coach Reggie Herring called the defense in Phillips’ absence.

The Panthers were 9-of-14 (64 percent) on third down. The Texans entered the game fifth in the NFL in defensive third-down percentage (32.3 percent).

“The overall theme for the day was we gave up big plays and there were some discipline parts of the game that we were not very disciplined on as we have been throughout the year,” Herring said. “At the end of the day, they beat us and out-executed us. We obviously didn’t execute very well. To me, the most disappointing thing was the third downs and big plays.”

The Panthers’ three scoring drives in the first half covered an average of 45 yards (26, 61, 48). Each came after a miscue by the Texans that gave Newton and the Panthers a short field.

Running back lost a fumble on the second play of the game. The Panthers recovered at the Houston 26-yard line and scored four plays later on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Newton to wide receiver Steve Smith.

missed a 49-yard field goal late in the first quarter, and the Panthers turned it into a nine-yard touchdown catch by tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Panthers tight end Richie Brockel ran in for a seven-yard touchdown in the final minute of the second quarter on a “fumblerooski” misdirection play on second-and-goal. The score was set up by an interception of Yates by linebacker Jordan Senn, who returned the ball past midfield.

“We came out flat in the first half,” Yates said. “We weren’t moving the ball well. We weren’t doing pretty much anything on offense and (were) giving their offense extra possessions and giving them points.”

Houston’s defense came out on fire in the second half. They limited the Panthers to 18 yards and one first down in the third quarter, but the Texans could muster only two field goals on two trips to the red zone.

The Texans finally got in the end zone two minutes into the fourth quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Foster. That capped an eight-play, 68-yard drive that Yates started with a scramble up the middle for 15 yards.

Foster’s touchdown got the Texans to within 21-13, but they would get no closer. Newton led the Panthers 80 yards in seven plays on the following drive, taking a 28-13 lead on a 24-yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams with 9:59 remaining.

Texans safety returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards. Yates then completed passes of 24 and 22 yards to and Foster, quickly giving the Texans first-and-goal from the 10. But on third-and-goal from the nine, he was picked off in the end zone by linebacker James Anderson.

The Texans didn’t get the ball back from there. Newton ran eight yards for a first down on third-and-eight from the Carolina 5-yard line. On third-and-two from the Houston 43, Newton picked up another first down with a three-yard run. The Panthers then ran out the final three minutes to seal the victory.

“It just seemed that whenever it came down to it today, we weren’t able to make the big play we really needed to,” linebacker said. “We had them in position to come back, stop them again and get the ball back for the offense, and we just didn’t come through. It was kind of the theme the whole day. They were able to hit big plays when they really needed them. “

Foster finished with 109 rushing yards on 16 carries (6.8 average) and 58 receiving yards. Yates was 19-of-30 for 212 yards. Linebacker and nose tackle both had sacks, giving the Texans a team-record 38 on the season. Barwin leads the Texans with a career-high 10.5 sacks.

Yates leads Texans to comeback win, AFC South title

CINCINNATI — The Houston Texans have won the AFC South.

Led by their defense and rookie quarterback T.J. Yates, the Texans overcame a mistake-filled first half to rally for a last-second victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Yates threw the game-winning six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver with two seconds remaining.

The Texans (10-3) won 20-19 after trailing 16-3 at halftime and, with the Tennessee Titans losing to the New Orleans Saints, clinched their first-ever division title and playoff berth.

“It was an ugly football game for us, but the end result was great for the organization,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “We did not play well, we turned the ball over and did not stop the runs in the first half. It did not look like we had any chance of getting out of here with a win, but we have a young quarterback who believes in what he’s doing. I’m just happy for everybody.”

Yates, making his second-career start and first on the road, went 26-of-44 for 300 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The fifth-round draft pick from North Carolina saved his best for last, leading two 80-yard scoring drives in the fourth quarter.. The last drive is likely to be remembered in the city of Houston for a long time.

The Texans got the ball at their own 20-yard line with 2:33 left to play, down 19-13. They were out of timeouts.

“We were pretty calm,” Yates said. “We knew that the defense had done a great job giving us the ball back. I knew we could move the ball and we just had to convert when it was needed.”

Convert they did. Yates, a third-stringer until three weeks ago, quickly moved the Texans to their own 46-yard line with passes of 11, seven and eight yards to tight end .

Yates followed that with a 19-yard pass over the middle to Walter, then spiked the ball at the Cincinnati 35 with 1:15 remaining. He was sacked for a five-yard loss on the next play.

On third-and-15 from the 40, Yates scrambled 17 yards up the middle for a first down. Wide receiver then drew a pass interference penalty on cornerback Adam Jones at the six-yard line with 12 seconds remaining. After an incomplete pass intended for Walter, Yates found his man in the middle of the end zone to win the game.

“It was the coverage we wanted,” Walter said. “The linebackers dropped and I was coming across the middle. As long as those linebackers drop with the other routes, that middle is wide open. T.J. threw a great ball; I just had to catch a ball and just get in the end zone.”

The Texans dug themselves a 13-point hole with a sloppy first half. Jones dropped a deep pass on the first play of the game that could have gone for an 85-yard touchdown. Cornerback dropped a sure interception in the end zone, leading to a Bengals field goal. Yates threw an interception late in the first quarter that led to three more points for Cincinnati.

In the second quarter, running back lost a fumble on first-and-goal from the one-yard line. The Bengals responded with a 97-yard touchdown drive, going up 13-3 on a 17-yard scoring pass from rookie quarterback Andy Dalton to Jerome Simpson. Texans kicker missed a 47-yard field goal in the final minute of the second quarter, and the Bengals wound up with a 49-yard field goal seconds before halftime.

“We came out very flat,” linebacker said. “It wasn’t the team that we’ve seen for the past few weeks. At halftime, Gary (Kubiak) talked to us and told us basically we need to step our game up and show up in the second half and find a way to close this game up.”

The Texans must have gotten the message loud and clear. They allowed only 81 yards and six first downs after halftime. Bengals running back Cedric Benson gained one yard on eight carries after carrying 13 times for 91 yards in the first half.

Outside linebacker sparked the turnaround by sacking Dalton and forcing a fumble on the first play of the third quarter. Linebacker recovered at the Cincinnati 17-yard line, and Yates hit tight end for a four-yard touchdown pass four plays later.

The Bengals went up 19-10 with a 28-yard field goal late in the third. In the fourth quarter, Yates led a 13-play, 88-yard drive ending with a 33-yard Rackers field goal with 5:35 remaining. The Texans’ defense allowed two first downs before stopping the Bengals near midfield and forcing a punt.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

“It is unbelievable what T.J. was able to do, finding people down the field, avoiding the rush and making plays with his feet,” said Daniels, who had a game-high seven catches for 100 yards. “It was so smooth. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“I don’t know if (winning the division) has really sunk in yet, but it feels good. It’s an unbelievable credit to everyone in the organization and to everyone that has fought through the hard times, and all the players that fought through today to make it happen.”