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What we learned: Texans end Bengals' perfect season

Backup quarterback T.J. Yates tossed his first touchdown pass since a January, 2012 playoff victory over the Bengals, leading the Houston Texans to a 10-6 upset victory in Cincinnati. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Taking the reins after Brian Hoyerexited with a concussion late in the third quarter, Yates floated a jumpball that DeAndre Hopkins cradled with one hand for the game's lone touchdown. A Bengals slayer, Yates beat Cincinnati to clinch a playoff berth in December of 2011, followed by a postseason win over Marvin Lewis' troops a month later. The Bengals have been the victims in three of his four career "wins" in five seasons. Another way to view it: Yates has been cast in a starring role for several of the most meaningful victories in Texans franchise history.
  1. Journeyman safety Quintin Demps forced an A.J. Green fumble on fourth down to clinch the victory with the Bengals driving deep inside Texans territory. That takeaway came one play after impressive rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson deflected a red-zone pass to force the fourth down. Romeo Crennel's improving defense has not surrendered a touchdown in 10 consecutive quarters, dating back to the second half of the Texans' blowout loss to the Dolphins. Stifling the previously undefeated Bengals ranks considerably higher than keeping Zach Mettenberger's Titans out of the end zone.
  1. Although Yates threw the game-winner, Hopkins deserves the bulk of the credit for pulling off a spectacular, game-changing play after being shut out by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick in the first half. No matter how dysfunctional the quarterback, Hopkins produces. With Jordy Nelson out for the season, the former Clemson star has emerged as the NFL's most acrobatic boundary receiver, coming down with contested catches on the sidelines and in the corner of the end zone. Hopkins is battling Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Larry Fitzgerald for two All-Pro spots this season.
  1. The pre-2015 version of Andy Dalton showed up for Monday Night Football. After struggling with downfield throws all game, Dalton was intercepted by Johnathan Joseph for the fourth time in five meetings. He should have been picked again in the fourth quarter, but the ball grazed the turf between Andre Hal's hands. Dalton also missed a wide open Tyler Eifert on a key third-down throw late in the game. Given Dalton's demonstrated progress through two months, we're inclined to chalk this up to an off night as opposed to a prime-time haunting.
  1. Former Bengals cornerback Joseph has given Dalton's go-to target fits in five career matchups. A.J. Green has disappeared for long stretches and failed to find the end zone with Joseph in coverage.
  1. For those inclined to believe breakout star Eifert was gaining on Rob Gronkowski as the game's premier tight end, this performance was a wake-up call. After dropping just two passes over his previous seven games, Eifert suffered three egregious drops with the game on the line. Dalton's misfire to a free-running Eifert might have also been attributed to miscommunication with the playmaking tight end.
  1. Although Dalton ran a quick-passing attack to minimize J.J. Watt's advantage versus backup right tackle Eric Winston, the All-Pro defensive end came through with a second-down sack on the game's final drive.

Watt's assessment of his team's surprising performance: "Our goal was to come out here and make the Red Rifle look like the Red Ryder BB Gun. I think we did that tonight."

  1. Monday's unlikely triumph on the road leaves the Texans at 4-5, good for a first-place tie with a Colts squad banking on backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck until Andrew Luck's indefinite return. For a flawed team with quarterback concerns of their own and no rushing attack, the Texans are fortunate to compete in the NFL's least competitive division.
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