HOUSTON -- Chris Crocker sat with his back to the room, staring into his locker for a long time after the Cincinnati Bengals playoff loss to Houston on Saturday.
When he stood and turned to answer questions, he did not duck or hide from the fact that he missed a golden opportunity to change the feel of the game.
In the third quarter, with Houston leading 17-10, Crocker stepped in front of a T.J. Yates pass intended for Owen Daniels. The ball was high, in his hands, and there was little between him and a tie game.
"I just dropped it," Crocker said. "I pick that ball nine out of 10 times and this time I didn't pick it off when it mattered most."
To make it worse, three plays later the Texans scored a touchdown on Yates' 40-yard pass to Andre Johnson. That score made the margin 14 points. The Bengals could never get back in the game, and lost 31-10.
"Maybe I was thinking what I was going to do before (catching it)," Crocker said. "I should have caught it. I dropped it."
Defensive backs are not receivers, so they don't catch like receivers. But Crocker's miss was a key play. A defensive end made an incredible interception for Houston and scored a touchdown, but a safety for Cincinnati could not complete the same play.
"They made those big plays," Crocker said, "and that's why they're moving on."
--It was a tough afternoon for Crocker. He also failed to get Arian Foster out of bounds on Foster's 42-yard touchdown run for Houston's final score, and looked pretty silly trying.
"I tried to push him out of bounds and didn't," Crocker said. "Those are plays across the board that we wish we had back."
--Crocker was not the victim on Johnson's touchdown pass. That one belonged to Adam Jones, who fell for a double move.
Jones jumped a short out, which allowed Johnson to run past him down the field.
"I just got my eyes off him," Jones said. "I just knew he was going to do the comeback.. They did that play four times. Hopefully tomorrow I can get over this."
--Coach Marvin Lewis shrugged off using both of his challenges in the first half on plays that were not overruled. Both challenges seemed questionable.
"I don't worry about that," Lewis said of not having a challenge in the second half. "You don't often see where the challenges come into play. The only thing it really would have cost us, which didn't matter, was the timeouts before halftime."
Lewis said his decisions on challenges sometimes come down to momentum -- either trying to continue his team's or stopping the other's.
"That's why I took the opportunity to go ahead and do it," he said.
He admitted the second -- a Houston catch -- was an obvious call, but said his team did not see the right replay until it was too late.
--Lewis' opening remarks: "I am disappointed that I wasn't able to get us in the position today to win the football game and get us over the hump. That is the disappointing thing. I am proud of how our guys fought and played. I told them it was my responsibility to get them over this hump."
--J.J. Watt played for Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl in college last year when it lost to TCU, which was quarterbacked by Dalton.
Watt, though, has beaten Dalton twice in the pros -- and Watt's interception and return for a touchdown was a key play in the playoff win.
"For all my Badger fans out there, that one did feel kind of good," Watt said.
--Center Mike McGlynn was blocking Watt on the interception.
"I got a pretty good jam on him, and he stepped up and made a really good play," McGlynn said. "By the time I realized he had caught the ball, I was at his feet trying to trip him from behind. It was a heck of a play. Big momentum swing.
"It was a pretty hard ball, and he caught it. I was surprised he caught it."
--Houston outrushed Cincinnati 188-65. Bengals leading rusher Cedric Benson had 14 yards on seven carries. Cincinnati threw 42 times, compared to 19 runs (three by Dalton).
--The Bengals were not happy losing, but they also recognized that not many people expected them to have a winning record, much less reach the playoffs.
"We're a young team," defensive tackle Domata Peko said. "We're one of the youngest teams in the AFC. When you put all those factors together, we'll have a good offseason and we'll be back again.
"But next time, we're going to make a better run. It's sad, but when you look around this locker room, you'll see a lot of young guys in here. So the sky's the limit."