Going into this game, with subdued optimism, I thought that the Houston would hold their own against the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, they not only held their own but outplayed them in almost every aspect of the game. The two glaring discrepancies for the Texans were turnovers and the quarterback. Otherwise the Texans dominated this game. If you do not believe me check it out for yourself…
The last time these two teams met the Ravens held Texans RB Arian Foster to 49 yards on 15 carries. His average of 3.3 yards/carry was one of his worst of the season. Meanwhile, Ravens RB Ray Rice ripped off 101 yards on his 23 carries for an average of 4.4 yards/carry. This time, however, the tables were flipped.
In today’s game it was Foster who exploded off the line of scrimmage and put together a great run game. He finished the game with 132 yards on 27 carries for an average of 4.9 yards/carry. Conversely, Rice was held to 60 yards on 21 carries for a measly 2.9 yards/carry average. However, Foster added a touchdown to his yardage today while Rice did not see the endzone.
Today it was glaringly obvious that the Texans were playing with a rookie quarterback. QB T.J. Yates, whom has led the Texans since week 12 of the regular season, made some real bone-headed throws today. Understandably he was trying to force the ball downfield to the best wide-receiver in the league, Andre Johnson, but he threw into double and triple coverage while trying to do so. The result of these decisions was a horrid amount of interceptions – three of them to be exact – which cost field position and points.
Outside of the interceptions Yates looked good for a rookie, fifth-round draft pick. He maintained his composure for most of the game and managed to pull off some great throws over the middle, deep, and down the sidelines. He also kept himself upright, due mostly in part to the outstanding play of the Texans offensive line. Yates finished 17/35 for 184 yards and no sacks.
On the other team QB Joe Flacco managed to scrape together a couple of touchdowns off of Texans turnovers. He finished the game 14/27 for 176 yards and two TDs. He did not look particularly stellar but did a great job of managing the game for the Ravens. He played smart, got rid of the ball when he could, and made some great throws down the field.
For years the Ravens have been a team that was considered to be a mean and hard-hitting defensive unit. With players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Haloti Ngata they were sure to be a great match-up for the up-and-coming Texans defense. What we discovered in this game, however, was that the Texans outplayed the Ravens on defense.
Granted, people will look at the score and say “But the Ravens won”. Those points came off of two interceptions which were deservedly picked off. Both of the two interceptions, which resulted in points, were thrown into double or triple coverage. Neither of the passes had any chance of making it to their intended target. So, as should be expected, the Ravens had two profitable (albeit easy) interceptions in this game.
What the Ravens did not have in this game were sacks.
The team ranked third in the NFL for defense finished this game with absolutely no sacks on Texans QB Yates. It was not as if they were not trying either. They constantly brought pressure and tried to collapse the pocket but the tremendous work of the Texans offensive line kept them from reaching Yates. The Ravens did manage to have four fumble recoveries, but only one of those was a fumble by a Texans player.
The Texans, on the other hand, managed to finish with no turnovers on the Ravens. They had no interceptions and, while they did force fumbles by the Ravens, those were quickly swallowed up by Ravens players.
The Texans brought tremendous amounts of pressure to Flacco, held Rice to a minimal impact in the run game, and were a nuisance all over the field. Unfortunately, Flacco was able to air the ball out a few times and find weak spots in the Texans pass coverage. A blown coverage in the end zone resulted in a costly touchdown early in the game. However, CB Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson did a decent job of covering their assignments.
Altogether, the Texans looked like the better defense while the Ravens looked like the more disciplined defense.
For the Texans the special team play was manic-depressive at best. Starting the game out, FS Danieal Manning took the opening kickoff back 60 yards into Ravens territory. That was the lone highlight of the special teams today.
WR Jacoby Jones, who handles punt returns, was the weak link for the Texans today. His six punt returns averaged zero yards…yes, that is right, zero, as in NONE! He was constantly running horizontally, rather than vertically, and managed to run backwards on a number of returns for a net loss on the punt return. His play took a turn for the worse when he bobbled and dropped a punt which resulted in seven points for the Ravens. The next punt almost ended exactly the same when the ball bounced off of Jones’ helmet, then the ground, and eventually into his hands.
Jones managed to redeem a portion of his mistakes when he recovered an Arian Foster fumble. However, his play this season was summed up in today’s game – mediocre at best, horrid at worst. I will be shocked if he is on the Texans depth chart next season!
Wrapping it Up
Altogether the Texans played one hell of a game. They were a team that nobody expected to make it to the playoffs because of their terrible defense last season. They were then doubted when they lost OLB Mario Williams, QB Matt Schaub, QB Matt Leinart, and WR Andre Johnson. However, the resiliency and determination of this team was able to overcome all of the doubters. They put together an unforgettable season for their fans and made it to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They handily beat their first-round opponent after having squeaked by them the first time they met.
The Baltimore Ravens are a great team with a great defense. The Houston Texans are a great team with a greater defense. It was the turnovers, however, which defeated the Texans today. A rookie quarterback was unable to overcome his playoff jitters and made some costly mistakes. A veteran wide-receiver buttered up his hands before returning punts. No matter what, though, the Texans finished this season with heart.
This team is one that will be back in the playoffs next season. They have a defense that will wreak havoc again next season and, with some improvements, an offense that can put up points on the board. Next season holds great things in store for the Houston Texans…your 2011 AFC South Champions!!
Topics: Afc, AFC South, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Baltimore, Baltimore Ravens, Brooks Reed, Danieal Manning, Defense, Houston, J.J. Watt, Jacoby Jones, Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Mario Williams, Matt Leinart, Matt Schaub, NFL, Ravens, T.J. Yates, Texans