The Baltimore Ravens avenged their 2012 blowout loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday with a win at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, taking advantage of a defensive touchdown and another from its special teams in the second quarter to hand the AFC South heavyweights their first loss of the season, 30-9.
With the dominant win, the defending Super Bowl champions advance to 2-1 on the year and 2-0 at home.
The Houston Texans began the game with a 16-play, 69-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock. Unfortunately, despite numerous mistakes from Baltimore's defense, the Texans had to settle for a chip-shot field goal.
Baltimore was unable to capitalize on Houston's red-zone struggles in the first quarter, though, picking up just 10 total yards on six plays in the opening frame.
The following statistic from 1570 WNST Ravens beat reporter Luke Jones tells the tale:
With flags outnumbering points through the first quarter, it appeared as if one of Week 3's marquee clashes was poised to become an ugly one, per Brady Kannon on Twitter:
But sure enough, trailing 6-0 in the second quarter at home for the second straight week, the Ravens finally woke up, scoring 17 unanswered points in a span of three minutes and 10 seconds, with the NFL Network's Rich Eisen pointing out that the timing couldn't have better for what was to come at halftime:
Here's a look at Tandon Doss' 82-yard punt-return touchdown that gave Baltimore an 11-point lead:
The Texans would eventually stop the bleeding, covering 51 yards in five plays on the very next drive to set up a field goal attempt right before the half. Houston would cut the deficit to eight before heading to the locker room, but momentum clearly had shifted to the home team.
But that didn't matter to the Ravens as an electric sea of purple cheered loudly for the recently retired Ray Lewis during a halftime ceremony to honor the two-time Super Bowl champion, per the team's official Twitter account:
General manager Ozzie Newsome shared some words for his former player USA Today's Jim Corbett: "Ray, you were a great, great player (and) a great, great person. And you were our leader for 17 years."
Lewis responded to the warm welcome and appreciation, per Corbett:
Baltimore, Baltimore. ... I could never thank every person that's in these stands right now.
This city is what love is all about. This stadium for 17 ye,ars [sic], I gave everything I had. I left it all on the field. ... Thank you, thank you to my family. There's no me without my family.
Thank you, Baltimore, I love you.
Afterward, Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense finally got their feet under them early in the third quarter, putting together a nine-play touchdown drive that put Baltimore ahead by two touchdowns.
It wouldn't matter, though, as the Texans' offense was unable to generate any punch in the third quarter, picking up just 68 yards and punting twice after both of its drives stalled. Nothing changed for Gary Kubiak's club in the final quarter as Baltimore's fast-improving defense grew more and more confident with every stop, per the team's official Twitter account:
In the end, Houston had no answers for Baltimore's defense, averaging just over four yards per play. Although the Ravens offense was just as bad, the defensive touchdown and Doss' punt return were enough to sink the Texans.
Key Player Grades
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens, QB: B-
Reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco was far from sensational, but he didn't hurt his team by turning the ball over.
Flacco completed 16 of his 24 pass attempts for 171 yards and converted some key third downs. His performance isn't going to please fantasy owners, but John Harbaugh and the Ravens don't mind.
Matt Schaub, Houston Texans, QB: D
Houston's Matt Schaub started off hot on Sunday, completing each of his first five passes. But the veteran struggled immensely after the Texans' opening drive of the game, failing to stretch Baltimore's defense and coming up short on third down opportunities.
Schaub would finish with 194 yards passing, but had zero touchdowns and an interception that proved to be a killer for Houston. The second-quarter pick-six put Baltimore ahead and gave all the momentum to the Ravens right before halftime.
Ravens Defense and Special Teams: A
Baltimore's defense and special teams were spectacular on Sunday afternoon, combining to score two touchdowns in less than a two-minute span in the second quarter.
Daryl Smith and the defense made Matt Schaub uncomfortable throughout, picking off the veteran once while return man Tandon Doss made the Texans pay with a brilliant touchdown return after Shane Lechler out-punted his coverage.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans, RB: C+
Like the rest of his offensive teammates, Arian Foster struggled in Baltimore, rushing for just 54 yards and recording just one catch for minus-2 yards. Foster did average 4.5 yards per carry against the Ravens defense, but his longest run was just 10 yards and he never once appeared a threat to break off a big play.
Winners of two straight, the Ravens will travel north to Buffalo in Week 4 where they'll look to advance to 3-1 with a win over the Bills. Meanwhile, the Texans will head back home to host the Seattle Seahawks in next Sunday afternoon's marquee matchup.
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