HOUSTON — Andre Johnson hugged his coach at the end of Houston's first playoff game, a decade in the making.
"This is something not just for me but for the whole organization," the receiver said. "It's special for me because I said on the day I was drafted here (in 2003) that I wanted to be a part of that."
Johnson, the face of the 10-year-old franchise, caught a 40-yard touchdown pass that helped Houston beat Cincinnati 31-10 in Saturday's AFC wild-card game at Reliant Stadium.
"It's a very special feeling," he said. "That's probably the most I've smiled in a long time."
Johnson had plenty of help, including from rookies J.J. Watt and T.J. Yates.
"I'm just very proud of all the guys and the job they did," coach Gary Kubiak said.
Houston used six draft picks on defense in April. The first was Watt, an end, at No. 11 overall. He started all 16 regular-season games and led the team with 13 tackles for loss. But he hadn't picked off a pass until Saturday.
With the score tied at 10 in the final minute of the first half, Watt measured his jump when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton dropped back and snatched the ball. He then sprinted 29 yards to the end zone.
"I was really just trying to put my hands up and get in the way of the passing lane," said Watt, who said he works on plays such as that during practices. "I realized I had the ball, so I just ran to the end zone trying not to fall down."
Houston's defense, ranked No. 1 for most of the season and which finished second, had its best game in several weeks, with four sacks and four turnovers. "We got back to our type of football," Kubiak said.
Up 17-10 late in the third, Yates, a fifth-round pick pressed into action after injuries to quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, caught a break when safety Chris Crocker dropped an interception. ("It was a touchdown if I would have caught it," Crocker said.) Three plays later, Yates hit Johnson, who had broken free from cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, for a touchdown.
Dalton threw interceptions on the Bengals' next two series. Then Arian Foster, who ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns, scored on a 42-yarder to keep Cincinnati winless in its three playoff appearances since its last victory in January 1991.
Said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis: "I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to put us in position to win the football game and get us over the hump."