Ravens-Texans: What we learned

Benjamin Standig, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- On the same day Ray Lewis entered the team's Ring of Honor and his former defensive partner Ed Reed returned for the first time as an opponent, the Ravens generated a winning performance reminiscent of their grinding past.
Baltimore picked up touchdowns from their defense, special teams and on the ground en route earning its second straight win with a 30-9 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
The Ravens (2-1) led 17-9 at halftime despite generating only 65 yards on offense, committing 77 yards worth on penalties and Houston dominating time of possession.
Trailing 6-0, linebacker Darryl Smith turned the momentum. He jumped a short Matt Schaub pass over the middle and returned the interception 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:39 remaining in the second quarter.
After Baltimore's defense stopped the Texans on their next possession, Tandon Doss returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown, narrowly avoiding stepping out of bounds while racing down the right sideline.
The Ravens played without injured running back Ray Rice (hip). Backup Bernard Pierce started and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run early in the third, extending the Ravens lead to 24-9.
Justin Tucker converted all three of his field goal attempts for the Ravens, who hold a 6-1 all-time series lead over Houston.

What the Ravens said
"As I walked out of the tunnel, I said I should have ran out there, and he should have tossed me the ball. ... But it's just so perfect when you come and see that type of switch in this game. ... I told my commentator buddies, 'Don't ever think I'm picking against the Ravens. I'm always Ravens, so win, lose or draw, I'm going to ride the Ravens.' So, just to see it is completely awesome." - Ray Lewis on Darryl Smith's interception return for a touchdown shortly before the team honored the retired linebacker at halftime.

What the Texans said
"We were in the type of game that I thought we would be in. It was a 6-3 game, with five or six minutes left in the first half, and in a four-play sequence, we gave up 14 points. That's where the game turned. And then you're playing catch-up all day long. I'm very disappointed." -- Coach Gary Kubiak

What we learned about the Ravens
1. Allowing 49 points and seven touchdown passes to Peyton Manning seems like a long, long time ago. Since that Week 1 disaster, the Ravens have not allowed a touchdown pass, holding Houston to field goals including twice in the first half after reaching the red zone. Baltimore's 3-4 unit underwent significant change this offseason with Ray Lewis retiring and Ed Reed departing for Houston. Clearly not all were comfortable yet in their new roles in the opener, but two weeks later, different story. "You don't ever want to have a performance like that," LB Darryl Smith said of 49-27 loss to the Broncos. "Each we'll grow together, we'll gain more chemistry, we'll learn to trust each other more. I think we've done that that last two weeks."
2. The Ravens racked up their second straight win, this time without running back Ray Rice, who sat out with a hip injury suffered in last week's win over Cleveland. Second-year back Bernard Pierce started, scored on a 1-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter and racked up 65 yards on 24 carries. Bottled up most of the gain, his 25-yard run helped setup the second of Justin Tucker's three field goals. Even though the final totals weren't gaudy, the Ravens patiently stuck with the ground game.

What we learned about the Texans
1. Not scoring a touchdown on each red zone trip as they did the first two games? It happens. Unable to alter momentum after the Ravens made scored a defensive and special teams touchdowns within four plays in the second quarter? Hey, the other side also has a job. But 14 penalties -- that's not part of a championship pedigree. It was key in terms of the Ravens sustaining drives and Houston's inability to sustain any after halftime. "The biggest disappointment is in discipline," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "That's my responsibility."
2. For the second straight game, Houston played a chunk of the second half without Andre Johnson. The Pro Bowl wide receiver suffered a bad shin bruise, forcing him to leave the game in the second half. Johnson said he will undergo an MRI Monday morning, but is uncertain about his status for Houston's Week 4 game against Seattle. Though rookie DeAndre Hopkins stepped up for the second game by leading in receptions (six) and yards (60), the Texans passing game requires Johnson's playmaking ability in order to put scares into defenses.

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