Ravens await rookie QB

Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals in their NFL AFC...

Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals in their NFL AFC wildcard playoff game in Houston on January 7, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Stone)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:53 PM ET

HOUSTON - If T.J. Yates listens very closely, he can probably hear Ray Lewis eagerly growling in anticipation of his arrival all the way from Baltimore.

In his illustrious Hall of Fame career, the ferocious Ravens linebacker has made a living from feasting on plenty of fresh rookie meat for more than a decade.

Next on the menu, here comes some prime Texas beef his way in the form of Yates, the first year Houston quarterback who will lead the Texans into the House that Ray Built for a divisional playoff showdown against the Ravens on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore.

To be fair, Yates deserves full credit for leading the Texans to their first post-season victory in franchise history on Saturday, a 31-10 wild-card dismantling of the Cincinnati Bengals in front of a record crowd at Reliant Stadium.

No, he wasn’t one of the shining stars for the Lone Star State’s only post-season representative. (Sorry Cowboy fans).

Not like stud running back Arian Foster, who gouged the Bengals defence for 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

And not like defensive lineman J.J. Watt, whose athletic pick six of an Andy Dalton pass in the final minute of the first half put the Texans ahead for the remainder of the afternoon.

Still, Yates did his part, completing 11-of-20 passes for 157 yards, throwing a touchdown pass to star receiver Andre Johnson and, most importantly, converting several key third downs while not once turning the ball over.

If ever there was a display of a quarterback efficiently managing a game, this was it.

At the same time, what the final summary doesn’t show is just how quickly the outcome might have changed had the Bengals defence not suffered from a bad case of butterfingers.

On at least three different instances the Bengals had their paws on inaccurate Yates’ passes only to fail to hold on to them.

None was more glaring than the drop by Cincy defensive back Chris Crocker in the third quarter with the Texans precariously coddling a 17-10 lead. Had he been able to cradle the ball, which hit him in the mitts with a solid “thwack,” Crocker would have enjoyed an easy romp to the end zone for the tying score.

“I just dropped it,” Crocker said. “I pick that ball nine out of 10 times and this time I didn’t pick it off when it mattered most.”

At least he was accountable. Give him that.

At the same time, should Yates make that same bad throw on Sunday in Baltimore, does anyone really think that Ravens all-world safety Ed Reed would allow the ball to plunk off his hands and hit the turf?

No way.

Nor should anyone expect that Foster will be able to shove the hard-tackling Ravens out of his way with relative ease the way he did on his game-clinching scoring romp in the fourth quarter versus the Bengals.

Playing in the friendly confines of Reliant and beating a Bengals team that has not registered a post-season victory since 1991 is one thing.

Going into a hostile, foul-mouthed environment, like the one that will greet them in Baltimore, against the Ray Lewises and Ed Reeds of the world, especially with a rookie quarterback at the helm, well, that is a far steeper hill to climb.

To a man, however, the Texans are willing to accept the challenge.

“We know and I know exactly what to expect,” said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, whose team dropped a 29-14 decision in Baltimore three months ago. “Our guys know. They know what type of team we’re playing. It will be a physical game. We’ll have to handle a hostile crowd and we have to do it with a young kid (at) quarterback again.

“Yes, we know what we are up against. But do you know what? That’s kind of the way we play. It’s the type of football we like to play. We have to go (up) there and have another good week.

“We’ll play well.”

Against the likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, they’ll have to.

BAD BREAK FOR HOUSTON

Have the Texans already suffered a bad break almost a full week before they face the Ravens in Baltimore?

According to the Houston Chronicle, tight end Owen Daniels, a key cog in the Texans passing game, is to undergo an MRI for a suspected broken right hand suffered in Houston’s 31-10 wild-card victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday.

It is believed that Daniels would still be able to play either way, since the potential injury is not expected to be a compound fracture.

Having said that, catching footballs with a wonky wing will not be easy, to say the least.


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