The much-improved Houston Texans (11-7) battled toe-to-toe with the potentially Super Bowl bound Baltimore Ravens (13-4) for four full quarters, but came up just a hair short, as the Ravens prevailed 20-13 and advance to play the New England Patriots (14-3) on the road next Sunday at 3:00pm EST in the AFC Championship Game.
However, it was far from a dominate showing by Baltimore. The Texans played better in the running game. Arian Foster chalked up 132 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown and five receptions for 22 yards to boot.
Ray Rice and Ricky Williams combined for 87 yards on 27 carries and four catches for 20 yards. Houston was also all-around more sound on defense. The Texans allowed only 227 total yards, while the Ravens surrendered 315 yards of offense. Houston was also the tougher team and won the battle on the line of scrimmage.
Joe Flacco completed just 14 of 27 passes for a less-than-impressive 176 yards and two touchdowns and a handful of his throws were aided by some superb catches. He was also sacked five times combined by rookies J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed.
“We probably need to clean up some things on offense,” Flacco said.
Houston won the eyeball test and outplayed Baltimore in nearly every phase of the game.
“The Texans did more than grind it out,” writes SI.com’s Ben Reiter. “The physically dominated the Ravens at the line of scrimmage on both sides.”
However, the Ravens won the time of possession (31:20 to 28:40) and didn’t make mistakes—committing no penalties or turnovers all game.
The Texans, on the other hand, didn’t play such a squeaky-clean game. T.J. Yates displayed a decent overall performance and played with excellent effort, airing it out 35 times with 17 completions for 184 yards against an elite defense on the road.
He was able to get very hot at times, however, his rookie mistakes—three interceptions—were likely too much to overcome in a close contest where there was very little room for error.
Jacoby Jones’ detrimental decision to return a punt in the first quarter deep in Texans territory might have also been a clear game-changer. It certainly was according to folks on Twitter. Houston had built up significant momentum and that bone-headed move lead to the Ravens answering with a quick strike, taking a 7-3 lead and stealing their swagger. Jones had additional trouble running routes and made no catches during the postseason. Needless to say, his future in Houston is in question heading into next season. Kevin Walter’s name was also trending on Twitter after the loss, as that pivotal Hail Mary pass hit his hand in the closing seconds.
Considering all of the injuries to key players and being forced to play with a fifth-round rookie signal-caller, Houston has a ton of good things to hang its hat on after a very successful season. The Texans’ defense is outstanding, chock-full of terrific young talent and the offense looks to be a healthy Matt Schaub and new No. 2 receiver away from possibly taking this team to the Super Bowl in 2012-2013.
Ed Reed encountered a couple of injuries during the contest, including one in the final seconds which initially appeared to be a major concern, but he gave the impression it wasn’t too serious in a brief interview with NFL Network. Still, it should be something to keep an eye on during the week.
“With Schaub and those guys it would have been a totally different ball game,” Reed admitted after the game.
Baltimore is an underdog heading into Foxborough, MA, but I really like the Ravens’ chances to get to Indianapolis (despite a 4-4 road record this year) in perhaps a rematch of the Harbaugh Bowl in the Super Bowl, which was also a topic trending on Twitter.
GridironGrit.com Analyst Jonathan Mathis broke down why a rematch was a possibility on Wednesday between the Harbaugh brothers and GridironGrit.com NFL Insider Barry Barnes also elaborated on whether it’s truly time for the team to win it all.
Verse of This Piece: “Pride leads only to shame; it is wise to be humble.” —Proverbs 11:2