The Ravens have been searching for the big play early on this season.
With their offense struggling in the first half, they finally got it – from defense and special teams.
The defense took it from there, continuing its dominant ways once again, but this time against a very talented Texans offense and with Ring of Honor inductee Ray Lewis watching from the sidelines.
Add it up, and it was a 30-9 win over the Houston Texans Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I commend the football team for playing rock-solid football,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “For displaying the mental toughness it takes to beat a team of that caliber, to overcome a first quarter the way we did.”
The Texans (2-1) are another top AFC contender, and they blew out the Ravens by 30 points last season, the most lopsided loss of the John Harbaugh era. This time around, the defense largely provided a blowout.
Since surrendering a franchise-high 49 points in Denver to open the season, Baltimore’s revamped defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in its next two games.
“We want to be a great defense,” cornerback
The game couldn’t have started much uglier for the Ravens, and they were fortunate to only be trailing by six points near the start of the second quarter.
Houston opened with a 16-play drive aided by a Ravens’ penalty for having too many men on the field on a field-goal attempt, giving Houston a free first down. The Texans still had to settle for three points. Houston got great starting field position on their third drive, but again got just a field goal.
Still, there were concerns looming for the Ravens.
The offensive line was having a tough time against the Texans’ talented front seven. Offensive tackle
Baltimore couldn’t get the run game going either. With Pro Bowl running back
The Ravens offense had bad starting field position and gained just nine yards on its first three drives. The Texans dominated time of possession in the first quarter (12 minutes, 15 seconds to 2:45).
Despite not getting much rest, the defense kept Baltimore in the game. Then it put the Ravens ahead.
The momentum swung when Smith stepped in front of a pass intended for tight end Owen Daniels and took it 37 yards to the end zone. It’s the 10-year veteran’s first career interception return for a touchdown, and he did it on the day when the Ravens honored his predecessor Lewis.
He didn’t have a flashy dance like Lewis, but Smith put up six points just the same.
“I guess it’s sort of like a dream,” Smith said. “I just remember catching it and just running as fast as I could, trying to get in there. I’m not a dancer or nothing like that. I just gave them a little something and went back to the bench.”
The defense got a quick stop on Houston’s next drive, forcing a punt with about a minute left in the first half. Doss caught it, juked a couple Texans and raced up the Ravens’ sideline for an 82-yard score. Lewis was waiving him into the end zone.
Doss was cut at the end of training camp, as rookie wide receivers
“It’s been a rocky first couple of years,” Doss said. “Just having that play in front of my home team fans, that was amazing.”
The two touchdowns occurred just 1:44 apart, and got M&T Bank Stadium rocking.
“It was a shock,” Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. “Something like that is going to hurt you. It was a huge 14-point swing.”
The Ravens had just 65 total offensive yards in the first half, yet the team had eight penalties totaling 77 yards. The two teams combined for 15 penalties by halftime, which was the most in any first half of an NFL game this year.
But a pair of touchdowns from defense and special teams turn it all around. Baltimore led at halftime, 17-9, and never looked back.
Baltimore’s offense got going for the first time on their opening drive of the second half, continuing to keep their momentum rolling.
Flacco faced off against Ed Reed, who signed with the Texans and started his first game of the season after a hip injury. Reed didn't get an interception, and finished with a quiet three tackles.
"We broke the huddle on the first play of the game and I saw him," Flacco said. "But from then on out, I didn't pay too much attention to him. On a couple of plays, I gave him a couple of double look-offs."
The Ravens offense scored its only touchdown on a 1-yard run by Pierce to cap its first drive of the second half. Pierce and the run game grinded out the rest of the game. The Ravens backup ran 17 times for 52 yards in the second half.
The offense marched down the field two more times to milk the clock and set up kicker
Baltimore's defensive front seven dominated. It held Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster to just 54 yards on 12 carries and All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, who got banged up during the game, to just 36 yards on five catches.
But it all came back to two big plays that shifted the game.
“Anytime you can start off slow like that and have some help from your defense and your special teams, it really kick starts your team,” Flacco said. “That really propelled us today.”