After getting blanked 20-0 by Baltimore in the opener, the Bengals (0-2) began Thursday’s game with great field position on their first three drives – starting at their own 46, own 45 and Houston’s 39 – and failed to score on all of them.
The third one ended when rookie first-round pick John Ross fumbled on a 12-yard reverse – his first NFL touch – and Houston linebacker Jadeveon Clowney returned it 49 yards to set up Ka’imi Fairbairn 26-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
»RELATED: ‘Pacman’ Jones honors former Bengal Chris Henry
Quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw four interceptions against the Ravens, was 20 of 35 for 224 yards against a Houston defense that lost both starting cornerbacks, Johnathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson, in the game.
After recording just four first downs in the first half, the Bengals appeared to have their first touchdown of the season when Dalton hit Tyler Eifert with a 12-yard strike in the third quarter, but the officials ruled Eifert stepped out of bounds before making the catch.
An incompletion followed, forcing the Bengals to settle for a Bullock 30-yard field goal that cut the Houston lead to 10-9 after a 17-play, 63-yard drive that ate 8:34 off the clock to start the second half.
Bullock also hit field goals of 39 and 29 yards for the team’s only points of the game.
It stayed that way until Fairbairn hit a 42-yarder to boost the Houston lead to four points with 1:56 remaining.
The Bengals started their final drive at their own 31 and failed to cross midfield. They finished with 295 yards of offense.
Things don’t get any easier, with a road game against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 24.
Pregame report: Cincinnati Bengals first-round pick John Ross is active and expected to make his NFL debut tonight against the Houston Texans, but the bigger news is that wide receiver Tyler Boyd, last year's second-round pick, is inactive as a healthy scratch.
Boyd was active for the first 17 games of his career and played 69 percent of the snaps last week. He had one catch on four targets for 11 yards.
Ross sat out the season opener with a knee injury suffered in the preseason finale at Indianapolis on Aug. 31, but he was a full participant in each of the light practices the Bengals held this week.
Safety Shawn Williams also is active and expected to start after missing the last two preseason games and regular-season opener with an elbow injury.
The other inactives are cornerback KeiVarae Russell, offensive linemen Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond, tight end C.J. Uzomah and defensive end Michael Johnson.