CINCINNATI - A rookie quarterback led the biggest drive in Houston Texans history, one that took them to the end zone and their first playoff berth.
T.J. Yates threw a 6-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left on Sunday for a 20-19 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that put the 10-year Texans in the playoffs for the first time.
With their seventh straight win, the Texans (10-3) moved to the threshold of the playoffs. They hugged on the field then headed to the locker room, waiting for the final seconds of Tennessee's game to play out. When time ran out on the Titans, preserving New Orleans' 22-17 victory, the Texans - who entered the league in 2002 - celebrated the AFC South title.
Yates, a fifth-round draft pick, got his chance when Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart suffered season-ending injuries in consecutive weeks. Making only his second start, Yates faced a daunting challenge - 80 yards to cover, only 2 minutes, 33 seconds left and no timeouts to help.
The Bengals (7-6) couldn't stop him.
Yates scrambled 17 yards on third and 15 to keep the drive going. A pass interference penalty on Adam "Pacman" Jones put the ball at the 6-yard line with 12 seconds left. After an incompletion, Kevin Walter lined up wide right, cut to the middle of the field and was uncovered at the goal line.
Offensive tackle Duane Brown ran to Yates and repeatedly slapped his helmet in celebration. The kid had come through when it mattered most.
The Texans, who have kept winning while losing quarterbacks, took the final step into the playoffs without leading receiver Andre Johnson, who was inactive Sunday because of a strained left hamstring.
Yates and a solid defense pulled them through. Yates went 26 of 44 for 300 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and five sacks.
Houston's defense was the stingiest in the AFC, and came through after the Texans fell behind by 16-3 at halftime.
Andy Dalton was sacked and fumbled, setting up Yates' 6-yard touchdown pass that got the Texans some momentum early in the third quarter.
The Bengals managed only 81 yards in the second half.