HOUSTON (AP) — Houston's $72 million man Brock Osweiler is staying on the bench and the Texans are counting on Tom Savage to help them to their second straight AFC South title on Saturday night against the Bengals.
Osweiler, who Houston signed to that huge contract this offseason, was replaced after throwing interceptions on two straight possessions in the second quarter last Sunday against the Jaguars. Savage took over and threw for 260 yards in his first action since 2014 to help Houston rally from a 13-point deficit for a 21-20 victory .
Coach Bill O'Brien stayed with Savage this week and the third-year player will make his first career start against the Bengals.
"He's confident in his own abilities," O'Brien said. "He's a good communicator with his teammates. His teammates have a lot of respect for him. They've seen how hard he's worked to wait to get this opportunity."
Savage was a fourth-round pick out of Rutgers in 2014, but has appeared in just three games since then after spending all of last season on injured reserve and serving as Osweiler's backup for most of this season.
"It's a great opportunity to go out there and show what I can do," he said. "I have to go out there and execute what I need to do and I'm going to have some fun doing it."
Houston (8-6) can secure the division title and a playoff spot Saturday with a win against Cincinnati and a loss by the Titans, who are playing the Jaguars. The Texans insist they aren't thinking about any other team this week and are simply focused on themselves.
"We know what's at hand and what's in front of us, so we're just going out there trying to get another win, trying to get our ninth win, defend our home field," left tackle Duane Brown said. "That's all we're worried about."
The Bengals (5-8-1) look to end a disappointing season on a high note after losing four of their last six to be eliminated from playoff contention , ending a streak of five straight postseason appearances.
"Obviously, we've raised the bar here, so we expect to be competing within our division," defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. "This year, we didn't do that and the end result is what we've got now. So it's not a good feeling. Very frustrating. Nothing we can do about it now. We've just got to learn from it and not let it happen next year."
Some things to know about the Bengals-Texans game:
FOURTH QUARTER BLUES: The Bengals have scored only 51 points in the fourth quarter, an average of 3.6 that is the worst in the NFL. The winless Cleveland Browns are second-to-last. In the past six games, the Bengals have managed three field goals and a safety in the fourth quarter, contributing to the slide that ended their postseason hopes. In a 24-20 loss to the Steelers on Sunday, they were shut out in the second half and managed only 38 yards total.
NO CHANGES: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis won't make any lineup changes with Cincinnati eliminated from playoff contention. Some of his younger players have gotten bigger roles as the season has evolved, but Lewis isn't going to increase their number of plays in the last two games.
"My thought is to win these next two football games with the best players we can put out there to play," Lewis said. "That's what we owe to everybody. This isn't junior high school."
HOPE FOR HOPKINS: Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins should have reason to hope he'll have better numbers now that Savage has taken over at quarterback. Hopkins was third in the NFL with 1,521 yards receiving last year, but his numbers have suffered this season as Osweiler struggled to get the ball downfield and Houston's passing offense sank to near the bottom of the NFL. Hopkins has 788 yards receiving and has just one 100-yard receiving game this season after finishing with six last year. Savage got the ball to Hopkins on Sunday and he finished with 87 yards receiving, which was his highest total since a 113-yard game against the Chiefs on Sept. 18.
CLOWNEY KEEPS COMING: Houston defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has played perhaps the best two games of his three-year career in the last two weeks. Clowney had a sack, three tackles for losses and two quarterback hits against Jacksonville last week after getting a strip-sack against the Colts two weeks ago. The top overall pick in the 2014 draft, who was selected to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, is tied for fourth in the NFL with 15 tackles for losses and has a career-high five sacks this season.
WELCOME HOME: Kicker Randy Bullock was a Texans fifth-round pick in 2012. The Bengals released struggling kicker Mike Nugent and claimed Bullock off waivers from Pittsburgh a week ago. He made field goals of 23 and 22 yards as well as both of his extra-point attempts against the Steelers, getting a loud ovation from fans at Paul Brown Stadium. Nugent's struggles — six missed field goals and five missed extra points — contributed to the Bengals' slide.