HOUSTON — Rookie Alonzo Highsmith says his presence may be the reason the Houston Oilers are playoff bound.
Highsmith scored his first two pro touchdowns and the Oilers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 21-17, Sunday.
"Wherever I go, the team seems to go well," the former University of Miami (Fla.) star said. "It's like I'm a good luck charm.
"My frustration was over when I finally scored and the team's frustration ended by going into the playoffs."
Highsmith, a contract holdout for the first eight games of the season, caught a 33-yard touchdown pass and ran 1 yard for another score.
The Oilers (9-6) will play host to Seattle in the Astrodome next Sunday. It will be Houston's first playoff appearance since 1980 and the first playoff game in Houston since 1979.
"I've talked to guys who have been here six years with no victories to speak of and I'm here six weeks and we're in the playoffs," Highsmith said. "It's weird."
The Oilers took a 21-7 halftime lead and then held off the Bengals (4-11)in the second half to earn a wild- card playoff berth.
Then, the celebrating started.
Houston Coach Jerry Glanville was rewarded with an ice shower, then he walked off the field and presented the game ball to a child he identified as David Jackson.
"I promised David if we won the game, we'd give this game ball to him," Glanville said. "He's been waiting a year for a liver transplant. All we've been waiting for is the playoffs."
Highsmith, making his third pro start, had 61 yards in 9 carries.
Houston quarterback Warren Moon completed 14 of 25 passes for 280 yards, but he was intercepted twice. The second interception came with 7:28 left in the game when a pass into the end zone bounced off receiver Drew Hill and was returned 37 yards by cornerback Solomon Wilcots.
It was 21-14 at the time. But Cincinnati's Boomer Esiason was sacked by end Ray Childress on third down, forcing the Bengals to surrender the ball with 5:19 left.
Cincinnati running back James Brooks left the game unimpressed with the Oilers. "I don't think they will last," Brooks said. "They don't have the experience or the depth to be in the playoffs."