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"This football team won the game no matter what," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It wasn't perfect by any stretch, but they found a way to win the football game."
The Ravens got four turnovers, including two interceptions by cornerback Lardarius Webb that led to 10 points. Conversely, Baltimore didn't give up the ball and wasn't flagged for a single penalty
With the Texans driving down the field for the potential game-tying touchdown, safety Ed Reed went up high just outside the end zone and came down with the pick. He deflected a fourth-down pass on the next drive to seal the game.
"We feel like we're the big brother so to speak of the team," Reed said of the defense. "It's not going to always be a blow-out or a shoot-out game. It's going to be hard fought. It takes a team effort."
Baltimore built a 14-point lead by the end of the first quarter after capitalizing on two critical Texans mistakes, but let it shrink to just four points by halftime and hung on from there.
The Ravens put up just 227 yards of total offense and had eight three-and-outs. They didn't score another touchdown after notching one with one minute, eight seconds left in the first quarter.
Quarterback Joe Flacco finished 14-of-27 for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice had just 60 yards on 21 carries (2.9 average).
Meanwhile, Texans All Pro Bowl tailback Arian Foster was running rampant. He had 95 rushing yards at halftime alone, already the most against the Ravens in a postseason game in franchise history.
But Baltimore's defense clamped down in the second half. It held Foster to just 37 rushing yards and the Texans offense to 134 total yards.
"We just had to trust each other that we were going to do our jobs," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "We did much better the second half."
The first quarter was defined by gaffes on both teams, but Baltimore took advantage more.
Special teams hurt the Ravens – and this time in a hurry. Texans returner Danieal Manning took the opening kickoff back 60 yards and Houston converted for a 40-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
Houston punt returner Jacoby Jones returned the favor when he tried to field a bouncing 71-yard punt, but was immediately hit by cornerback Cary Williams. He fumbled and cornerback Jimmy Smith jumped on it at the 3-yard line.
The Ravens punched it into the end zone three plays later on a fake run and pass to wide-open tight end Kris Wilson in the back of the end zone. Wilson's first reception of the season gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead.
"As a tight end, you're called on to do different jobs," Wilson said. "Some of them are glamorous and some of them aren't glamorous. Today, I got to do a little bit of the glamorous part, which was nice."
The bounces continued to go the Ravens' way. Flacco was sacked and fumbled on third down on Baltimore's second drive, but Baltimore recovered just in field-goal range. Kicker Billy Cundiff nailed a 48-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 10-3 lead.
Texans quarterback T.J. Yates looked frazzled early on. He nearly had a third-down pass intercepted by linebacker Ray Lewis, but it went through his hands and bounced off his chest. Webb got him on the next drive, stepping in front of wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Baltimore converted it into seven points after a 20-yard screen pass to Rice set up a beautiful 10-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, who returned from his knee surgery for the first time since Dec. 18. That gave the Ravens a 17-3 lead.
That's when Houston's offense found its rhythm, and it came on the legs Foster. The Ravens bottled him up in the first quarter (five carries for 16 yards), but Foster ran 10 times for 79 yards in the second quarter alone.
The Texans went 11 plays and settled for a field goal, then 12 plays capped off by a 1-yard touchdown by Foster to pull within four points at 17-13.
Baltimore's offense was sluggish in the second half. It went three-and-out on four of its first five drives of the third quarter.
Houston took the ball down the field on its second chance but a 50-yard field-goal attempt by kicker Neil Rackers clanked off the bottom of the crossbar and was no good. The Ravens clung to their 17-13 lead.
Baltimore finally got some offensive momentum on the next drive, keyed by a 30-yard one-handed catch by Lee Evans along the right sideline. It was his first catch since Dec. 11 and just his fifth of the year.
But the Ravens couldn't get into the end zone. After a Rice fumble, Baltimore went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line and Rice was stuffed by linebacker Tim Dobbins. The Texans took over possession.
After another three-and-out offensively, Webb came up with his second pick of the game on a long third-down pass over the middle. It's just the second time in Ravens franchise history that a player has notched two interceptions in a postseason game.
Baltimore put together a 10-play, 45-yard drive ending with a 44-yard field goal by Cundiff – making him 19-for-19 at home – that gave them a seven-point lead.
Thanks to the defense, it was enough to beat the Texans.
"I think it was a Ravens-type victory," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "I always say this, 'There's a right way to do things, there's a wrong way to do things, and then there's the Ravens' way to do things.'
"It wasn't really pretty, but hey, we're not really a pretty team. We got the 'W,' and on to the AFC championship."