HOUSTON -- Andy Dalton went to the hospital Wednesday with flu-like symptoms, but the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback felt even worse Saturday in his return to where it all started for him.
Call it "homesickness."
Dalton was sacked a career-high four times. He tied a career-high with three interceptions. And his Bengals lost 31-10 to the Texans in a wild-card playoff game.
"We lost," Dalton said. "It's not what we wanted, and it was unfortunate."
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It was a first for the former TCU product.
Dalton, who grew up 17 miles away, had never lost at Reliant Stadium. With three victories at Reliant -- two while at Katy High School and another for the Horned Frogs in the Texas Bowl -- Dalton still has more victories here than Texans rookie T.J. Yates.
But while Dalton passed for 257 yards and Yates only 159, it was Dalton's three turnovers that allowed the Texans to advance to the divisional round and denied the Bengals their first postseason victory since 1990.
The turning point came just before halftime.
The Texans scored 10 points in the final 1:48 to take a 17-10 lead into the locker room. On a Dalton pass intended for A.J. Green, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt snatched the ball out of the air, fended off Bengals right guard Mike McGlynn and sprinted to the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown with 52 seconds left in the half.
It was only the second pick-six Dalton threw this season.
"I saw quarters [coverage], and I threw it outside, and he jumped up and made a play," Dalton said. "Great job on his part. I didn't see exactly what had happened. ...I just saw he was running the other way.
"That was definitely a big play for them and gave them some momentum going into halftime."
It was a forgettable end to a memorable rookie season for Dalton.
He is an alternate for the Pro Bowl after throwing for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns during the regular season. Though he threw 13 interceptions during the regular season, he had only one in the past six games before Saturday.
"He played great," said receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals' first-round draft pick who made 65 receptions for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns this season. "Andy's one of the key reasons why we're here today. You don't see a lot of rookie quarterbacks that come in and start all 16 games and make the playoffs that first year. Hats off to him. We're going to have a great year next year."
Dalton, who went 42-7 at TCU, proved again he is a winner. He led the Bengals to only their third winning record in 21 years.
"He's a champ," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "It's one of those things you hear people say all the time: How do you explain poise and composure? But the kid's got it. He's not rattled, and he's not scared, and that's the reason he's going to be special. When he gets the time to actually be groomed and to get the actual preparation that most rookies receive, and he didn't even get to do this off-season, it ought to be a great time for him to build."
But as he slowly made his way out of the stadium, Dalton had a hard time looking behind to what a successful season it has been. He instead would rather look ahead.
"We feel like we have a bright future," Dalton said. "It's unfortunate that it ended this way, but we're going to push this off-season and make sure we can keep going in the playoffs and make a run at it."