This week against the Houston Texans, the Baltimore Ravens found themselves in a strange place. They were leading by five points midway through the fourth quarter and the Texans were only a drive away from a potential game-winning touchdown.
In spite of, that drive never came about. The Ravens had the ball in clock-control mode as they drove the ball 66 yards, capping it with a four-yard rushing touchdown by Ricky Williams. From there, the Ravens went on to win their third-straight with a final score of 29-14.
Although it was a defeat, the Texans played admirably without star players Andre Johnson and Mario Williams. Their depleted offense simply was unable to keep up with the Ravens, as they were unable to score a single point from midway through the third quarter.
Despite the large margin of victory, the Ravens' offense stalled on several occasions. Kicker Billy Cundiff helped out by converting all five of his field goal opportunities, and the other two touchdowns were scored by Williams and Joe Flacco respectively.
Here are some things that I took away from this week's game.
Last year, Vonta Leach was key in helping the Texans' Arian Foster lead the NFL in rushing yards. His blocking opened up gaping holes and helped to make Foster the star that he is today. Leach's season was so good that he ended up getting voted to the Pro Bowl.
Surprisingly, the Texans didn't seem interested in retaining Leach's services for the 2011 season. This resulted in Leach hitting the free agent market this summer, where the Ravens were quick to take advantage of the opportunity.
With Leach as fullback, Rice is now 11th in rushing yards with 398 yards. Leach was as furious as ever against his old team, throwing blocks and creating holes for the running game. He proved yet again why he was one of the Ravens top offseason acquisitions.
Even though they didn't score any touchdowns today, the Ravens receivers proved to be invaluable today. Anquan Boldin had a huge game with eight receptions for 132 yards. Torrey Smith also had another good game with three receptions for 84 yards.
Both Boldin and Smith were able to reel in some catches for huge gains to set up field goals. Despite looking like they struggled, the offense was able to rack up more than 400 total yards of offense. Boldin, Smith and Rice were all invaluable to the win.
For the first three quarters of the game the Ravens ran an outside zone scheme. It hadn't been all that effective with Rice only gaining 39 rushing yards and the offense as a whole had 45 rushing yards. So, for the fourth quarter the Ravens changed things up and instead ran an inside zone scheme.
The difference was major. The Ravens had a total of 68 rushing yards in the 4th quarter using this new scheme. Rice had 62 of those yards en route to the 101 yards he finished with.
The inside zone scheme helped the Ravens to successfully milk the clock as they tried to keep the ball away from the Texans. They were able to put up 13 points using this style of play and this scheme could potentially be something that the Ravens can use to more success in the future.
Billy Cundiff was responsible for 15 of the Ravens 29 points yesterday. He scored from 25, 33, 40, 43, and 48 yards out. His five field goals tied a record reached previously both by him and Matt Stover.
Although his career was unstable in past years, Cundiff has clearly become a good kicker. Since replacing Steve Hauschka midway through the 2009 season, Cundiff has given some stability to the Ravens kicking game. He is proving himself a worthy heir to Stover; one of the all time greats.
Like past Ravens defenses, this one has gotten credit for carrying the offense. This year the Ravens offense is better than usual; the defense has been carrying it only because of their unreal level of play. Having games with seven turnovers and three defensive touchdowns will do that to you.
Last year, the Ravens defense was horrible at closing in the Monday Night game against the Texans. They let the Texans storm back in the 4th quarter, only to win in overtime with a Josh Wilson interception touchdown.
While the meltdown can also be attributed to the offense's inability to produce later in that game, it definitely didn't sit well with a proud defense like the Ravens.
This year there was no such meltdown. The Ravens allowed 293 yards to an explosive Texans offense and they limited Foster to only 49 rushing yards. Perhaps their finest accomplishment yesterday was shutting out the Texans for the final quarter and a half of the game.
Winning by 15 points usually indicates a game that wasn't too close. For these Ravens it was their closest victory of the young season.
They have defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers by 28, the St. Louis Rams by 30 and the New York Jets by 17. All three of those games were blowout victories, something this game clearly wasn't. Still, a 15-point victory is great given the circumstances; especially since the Ravens got to experience a close game for the first time in awhile.
The Texans were arguably one of the harder teams on the Ravens schedule this year. Next week the Ravens visit the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars for a Monday Night game that looks like it will be exceedingly boring for the national audience.
Nevertheless, the Ravens need to remember the loss against the Tennessee Titans this year and not take this desperate Jaguars team for granted. This team nearly beat the Steelers this week and although it seems unlikely, they could cause trouble for the Ravens.