Reporting Paul Gallant
Just over nine months ago, the Baltimore Ravens ended the Texans’ first ever playoff run. But do they still have the guns to take Houston down on Sunday?
Since the turn of the century, the Ravens have had an awesome defense. Offensively? They’ve been gross – starting stiffs like Trent Dilfer, Tony Banks and Kyle Boller at quarterback.
Recently – and especially this year – the trend has reversed.
Baltimore now has an explosive and balanced offensive attack. And it all starts with running back Ray Rice.
When it comes to versatility, few running backs are better than Rice. He’s elite on the ground – seventh in the league in rushing yards (482) and third in yards per carry (5.0). Out of the backfield, Rice is also a good receiver. He runs crisp routes and can make people miss after the catch, and has 24 receptions for 233 yards thus far.
But Rice can be stopped – as the Texans proved in the playoffs last year. And when he is slowed down, the Ravens offense has typically crumbled. At least in the past.
Joe Flacco – the world’s most over-sensitive quarterback – has actually been pretty good this season. He has a cannon for an arm, the perfect complement to a deep threat receiver like Torrey Smith. And yes…Jacoby Jones.
This passing game could be a major problem for the Texans. We all saw Green Bay shred Houston downfield for six touchdowns. And while Flacco is no where near the quarterback Aaron Rodgers is, the same could very well happen Sunday.
Think about it. Johnathan Joseph has REALLY struggled the past two weeks. He’s dealing with a groin injury. Even if he can play, how effective will he be? Plus, outside of JJ Watt, where has the rest of the Texans pass rush been? Connor Barwin? Brooks Reed? Antonio Smith? Hellooooooo?
We Probably Need A Doctor
So last week…all the Ravens defenders pretty much died.
Seriously though. Last week against the Cowboys, the Ravens saw future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis go down with a torn triceps. He’s likely done for the year. As is number one cover corner Lardarius Webb, who tore his ACL. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata dinged up his knee, and cornerback Jimmy Smith is dealing with an abdominal injury.
That’s not a good thing. Especially when you see where the Ravens rank defensively.
Also…Our Defense Is Completely Awful
It’s really bad. Shocking, especially for a franchise we’ve always associated with defense. But even before the injuries last week, Baltimore has been an abomination defensively.
The ground defense? 26th in the league, allowing a whopping 136.5 yards per game. Last week against a typically pass happy Cowboys team, the Ravens allowed a franchise record 227 yards, including 183 between the tackles. Dallas running backs were averaging 3.5 yards before a defender even TOUCHED them. Thanks to that embarassing performance, Baltimore has allowed a league high 352 yards in between the tackles. If there was ever a day for Arian Foster and the Texans offensive line to break out of a slump, Sunday is it.
The pass defense? Not much better. They’re 22nd in the league, and that was before the injuries to Webb and Smith. The bright side? Ball hawking safety Ed Reed can still make plays. Just ask T.J. Yates. Plus, pass rushing outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who tore his achilles in April, returned to practice this week. But will he be play Sunday? Doubtful.