KRISTIE RIEKEN, AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Andy Dalton doesn’t have many good memories of playing in his hometown since being drafted in 2011.
The Cincinnati quarterback is 0-3 against the Texans, including two playoff losses in Houston. It’s something that will certainly be on his mind when he and the Bengals meet the Texans on Sunday.
Being ousted from the postseason twice by Houston in his short career adds extra motivation this week.
“Yeah, it is,” he said. “Obviously when you go home, you want to play well. You want to get a win and all that kind of stuff. Losing in the playoffs a couple times there, it still does sit with you, so we’re going to come out and … do whatever we can to get a win.”
The first playoff defeat came in a 31-10 win by Houston when he was a rookie in 2011. Dalton threw three interceptions in that game, including one that was returned by J.J. Watt 29 yards for a touchdown.
“What he’s good at, he’s going up and batting balls down,” Dalton said of the play. “He made a good play.”
The play helped Houston to its first playoff win in franchise history and was a breakout moment for Watt, who was also a rookie. Watt has since established himself as one of the best defensive players in the league and won Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2012.
“Obviously that is kind of when whatever this is started,” Watt said.
It’s become one of the most recognizable plays in the short history of this franchise and is played constantly on Houston highlight reels.
“I’ve seen the replay so many times that I remember the replay more than I remember the actual play, which is kind of sad,” he said.
But even after all of the big plays he’s made, which include two touchdown receptions, a fumble return for a touchdown and an interception return for a touchdown this season, that one still means a lot to him.
“That was one of the best moments of my whole life and it was pretty cool to feel the energy of the city and the stadium, and also just to be a part of this franchise’s history,” Watt said.
Dalton and the Bengals are trying not to get too caught up in the past and are instead looking to build off perhaps their best performance of the season in a 27-10 win over New Orleans last week.
He had a simple answer for how Cincinnati can do that.
“Keep playing like we did last weekend and we’ll be just fine,” Dalton said.
Here are some things to know about the Bengals-Texans game:
GREEN IS BACK: One of the lasting images from the Bengals’ 19-13 loss at Reliant Stadium in the 2012 playoffs was Dalton overthrowing an open A.J. Green in the end zone in the closing minutes. Green is having a subpar season because of an injured big right toe that sidelined him for three games and limited him in several others. He was back to form on Sunday with six receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.
CUSHING FEELING BETTER: Houston linebacker Brian Cushing had his best game of the season against the Browns after missing the previous two games with pain and swelling in his surgically repaired left knee. He forced a fumble, have five tackles and two quarterback hits in the win.
RUNNING TIGERS: Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill (second round) and Houston’s Alfred Blue (sixth round) were teammates at LSU before being drafted this year. They’ve both taken advantage of their opportunities with recent injuries to Giovani Bernard and Arian Foster.
Hill has had more than 150 yards rushing in two of the past three games and Blue had a franchise-record 36 carries and tied a rookie team record with 156 yards rushing last week.
MALLETT’S MOMENT: After rarely seeing the field as Tom Brady’s backup in New England, Ryan Mallett got his moment in his first career start on Sunday. Mallett threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns and the Texans raved about his confidence and poise in leading the team. Mallett was selected as the starter after veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched during the bye.
CLOWNEY’S COMING ALONG: No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney played in his third game last week after knee surgery and an illness kept him out for seven games. Houston coach Bill O’Brien liked his work on Sunday and is looking for consistency from the rookie.
“He’s got the ability to really disrupt plays,” O’Brien said. “When he understands his role and what his job is in the different packages that he has and keeps getting a better understanding of those things, he’s going to be more and more disruptive as he goes.”
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay contributed to this report.