Skip to main content

Ravens Defense Smothers Texans, C.J. Stroud

DT Justin Madubuike
DT Justin Madubuike

The Ravens expected to open their playoff run with a stellar defensive effort, and they didn't disappoint.

Holding the Texans without an offensive touchdown, the Ravens rolled to a 34-10 victory that became another signature performance for Baltimore's defense. The Ravens have a versatile unit that became the first to lead the NFL in points allowed, sacks and takeaways, and they can throttle an opponent in many ways.

Against Houston, the Ravens didn't have a sack or a takeaway, but they made Houston's rushing game virtually disappear (38 yards rushing). The Texans' longest play from scrimmage was 29 yards.

With no running game and few big plays, rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud was often a lonely man, rolling out to escape Baltimore's pass rush but with few open receivers. That's exactly where the Ravens wanted Stroud (19-for-33, 175 yards) – under control.

"The defense was just as good as it could be," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "That's a good offense over there. That's a good quarterback. C.J. Stroud deserves a lot of credit. They're very well coached. Their offensive line is really good and tough. It's tough to get to the quarterback.

"I thought our guys chased him, and I thought we plastered their receivers downfield. Our coverage was just outstanding. We covered as long as we needed to so many times."

Baltimore's defense set the tone on the game's first possession, stopping Singletary for no gain on the game's first play from scrimmage when Jadaveon Clowney and Malik Harrison hit him at the line of scrimmage and drove him backwards. Singletary only gained nine yards on his first six carries, setting the tone for a long and punishing day.

"All week we talked about stopping the run and that is with any team," All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith said. "If you stop the run and make a team one dimensional, it's going to be very hard to do anything.

"That is a credit to the big dogs up front. I think we have the best front seven in football starting with our four up front and then the best two combo in the league, me and Patrick Queen in the middle. So, when you look at it like that, you stop the run, make them one dimensional, that's when we let the ball hawks in the back make the plays that they do."

The Ravens were fresh defensively coming off a bye week and resting some of their starters Week 18 against the Steelers after clinching the No. 1 seed. The defense looked like it could have played five or six quarters without slowing down, while the Texans never found a way to move the ball consistently. Big-play receiver Nico Collins was held in check (five catches, 68 yards), and the Texans were shut out in the second half. Their only touchdown came on a 67-yard punt return by Steve Sims.

Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans conceded that Baltimore's front seven won the battle up front.

"They were playing on our side of the line of scrimmage," Ryans said. "We couldn't get going.

"They have really great personnel, and it starts up front. It's tough to handle up front when it comes to the run game, and then just schematically, with presenting the pressure, dropping out, they did a really good job of just changing up their looks."

The Ravens' defense was also added by the crowd noise, as the Texans had five false starts and a delay of game that put Stroud in more obvious passing situations. M&T Bank Stadium was rocking in its first divisional playoff game since 2019.

"The penalties really hurt us," Ryans said. "We reverted back to when we weren't winning games. We were playing sloppy, and you can't have penalties against a really good defense."

The Ravens' defense will face another challenge against either the Bills or Chiefs in the conference championship, but this unit doesn't shy away from anyone. Baltimore's defense holds itself to a high standard regardless of the situation or opponent. Against the Texans, that standard was met.

"This is what we knew what we could do," cornerback Brandon Stephens said. "I don't think anybody in this locker room is surprised about how we played today."

Related Content