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This Week in the Red Zone, or Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 2011 AFC South Champion Houston Texans vs. Cincinnati Bengals

3,381 days. That's how long we've waited. It's been 3,381 days since the first game in franchise history, a thrilling 19-10 win over Quincy Carter (snicker) and the Arlington Cokeboys, and the day those same Texans clinched their first AFC South championship and entrance into the playoffs.

Put another way, it's been nine years, three months, and three days for Texans fans, and 6,538 days since the last playoff game was held in Houston.

It's been a long drought. Since then, the nation's fourth largest city has been starving, desperate for playoff football to make its return.

Ladies and gentlemen, as of roughly 3 p.m. Central Time (1 p.m. Pacific) yesterday, the drought is over.

The Texans will host a football game in January, and possibly more. If you had told me that after the end of the first half in today's game, however, I would've called you a liar.

This was, make no mistake, an ugly game for the good guys. Stupid turnovers, frequent boneheaded penalties, and a defense that bore a disturbing resemblance to last year's squad made it look like our hopes of clinching the division would have to wait a week. In other years, this would have been a game where we'd be searching for a moral victory, scrambling like lunatics to make a fourth quarter comeback, only to fall short.

This is not other years. This is a game where the offense came out flat, made a lot of costly errors, without our best offensive weapon, without our leading pass rusher, with about 378 players on injured reserve, and a partridge in a pear tree third-string quarterback (whose parents really should have had better seats) at the helm; and they STILL pulled out the win.

I don't know how they'll do once they get into the playoffs, but if this is any indication, we may have a lot of time left in our season, after all. All I know is I will finally get to watch the Texans play in the comfort of my own home, without resorting to an online stream.

Considering how special this game was, and because I can do whatever I want on these posts, we'll be changing up this week's red zone post. How? You'll have to hit the jump to find out; though I suspect a lot of us are still floating after Sunday's game so you might not need to jump at all. But do it anyway.

This week, our standard red zone post will deviate and we will focus on one series. I think y'all know what that series is: the final drive of the game, or as I shall call it forevermore (or until someone thinks of a better name for it): The March.

After forcing the Bengals to go three and out, Jacoby Jones received the punt at the Texans' 13 and advanced the ball to the 20-yard-line with 2:33 left in the game.

And so begins The March. With a first-and-10 at the 20, Yates dropped back and throws incomplete off the hands of Lawrence Vickers.

Then on second-and-10, Yates threw a quick slant to Owen Daniels, who hauled it in for an 11-yard gain and a first down.

Next, Yates, again in shotgun formation, eluded an oncoming rusher and threw to Daniels again, gaining seven yards on the play.

The Texans now faced a second-and-three from their own 38. Yates threw an incomplete pass intended for former Bengal Kevin Walter.

Then it was third-and-three as Yates, out of the shotgun for the fourth consecutive play, found Owen Daniels for eight yards and a much needed first down.

This took the Texans to their own 46 with 1:55 left to go. On first-and-10, Yates, once more in the shotgun, hauled off and threw a strike to Kevin Walter for 19 yards, propelling the Texans into Bengals territory.

With precious time ticking down, Yates spiked the ball, leaving 1:15 on the clock.

On second-and-10 at the Bengals' 35, Yates took the snap in the shotgun but was sacked by Michael Johnson for a loss of five yards..

The Texans faced a dire third-and-15. The success of The March would hinge on this one play. Yates would drop back from the shotgun and, seeing nobody open, tucked the ball and ran, nay, scampered untouched by the defense, past the first down marker until he was brought down at the Bengals' 23-yard line, a 17-yard gain.

Time continued to eat away at the Texans' chances at pulling out the comeback. Yates spiked the ball again, stopping the clock with :25 left to go in the game.

Second down saw Yates take the snap and throw it incomplete to one of his two favorite targets in this drive, Owen Daniels.

Once again, it was third down for the good guys at the Cincinnati 23. Yates dropped back from the shotgun and launched a pass which goes just off the hands of Jacoby Jones. I can tell y'all are shocked by this.

But wait! There's a flag!

Adam "Pacman" Jones, America's favorite miscreant/delinquent, was penalized for pass interference. The Texans would get a free first down and the ball spotted at the six-yard line. Thank you, Adam Jones. I hope you don't end up in prison or something.

The Bengals then call their first timeout of the half, with :12 to go. The Texans' chances of winning/clinching were growing fewer and farther between with each second that ticked away.

The Texans had a first-and-goal from the six. Yates reared back and threw for Kevin Walter. The ball falls incomplete.

Again, the Bengals call timeout, now with eight seconds on the clock.

It was second-and-goal, again from the six. Yates dropped back five steps. The offensive line held the rushers at bay. Yates scanned the field and saw an open receiver. He pulled back and fired the ball at Kevin Walter, who caught the ball in the end zone for the game-tying touchdown with two seconds left on the clock!

The Texans' hopes were then pinned on the leg of Neil Rackers. Only a colossal blunder would keep the game from going to overtime; the game, and the team's winning streak depended on Rackers' accuracy. Rackers split the uprights, giving the Texans the lead and ultimately the win.

Time spent on The March: 2:31.
Yards gained during The March: 80.
End Result: T.J. Yates to Kevin Walter for the game-tying touchdown. Neil Rackers with the game-winning, and ultimately playoff-clinching, PAT.
Score: AFC South Champion Houston Texans 20 - Cincinnati Bengals 19

Next week the Texans begin the battle to gain the top seed in the AFC playoffs as they face $cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

Enjoy this week, Texans fans. I think it's only going to get better from here.

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