Texans vs. Ravens: The game-changers

Ravens rusher Ray Rice is a threat on handoffs or when getting the ball through the air. (Dave...

Ravens rusher Ray Rice is a threat on handoffs or when getting the ball through the air. (Dave Kaup/Reuters files)

Mike Rutsey, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:22 PM ET

Five guys, other than the quarterbacks, who can be game-changers in Sunday’s game.

1. Ravens LB Terrell Suggs

In Baltimore the belief is that this has been Suggs best season in his nine years with the Ravens. The Ravens rush linebacker, Suggs led the team with a career-high 14 sacks and a league-high seven forced fumbles. Suggs also chipped in with 50 solo tackles and made two interceptions. MLB Ray Lewis may be the heart and soul of the defence but Suggs is their No. 1 enforcer as well as the team’s class clown. Suggs believes this season offers him his best chance at a Super Bowl. “We’ve never been this healthy in the playoffs and as rested,” he said. “We’ll just see how we take advantage of the opportunity — if we capitalize on it or we let another one slip away.”

2. Texans RB Arian Foster

There will be no surprises in the Houston Texans’ offensive game plan. They intend to run, run and run some more with Foster expected to do the bulk of the heavy lifting. On the season, Foster rushed for 1,224 yards in 13 games and scored 10 rushing TDs. He is also a main target in the passing game as he caught 53 passes for 617 yards and another two TDs. How Foster and Ben Tate (942 yards) perform will be critical to the Texans’ success. As one of the premier running backs in the league, Foster can bust between the tackles and also has the speed to take it outside.

3. Ravens RB Ray Rice

In many ways these teams are mirror images of each other. The Ravens rely on the run to set up their passing game almost as much as Houston. The running back who makes it go for Baltimore is four-year veteran Ray Rice, who put together another banner season, totalling 1,364 rushing yards on 291 carries for a 4.7 yard average. He also scored 12 rushing TDs. Rice would gladly settle for a repeat of his performance from the Ravens 29-14 victory over Houston on Oct. 16. In that game he rushed for 101 yards and added another 60 yards on five receptions.

4. Ravens NT Haloti Ngata

Stopping the Houston running attack that features the 1-2 punch of Arian Foster and Ben Tate will be the No. 1 priority of the Baltimore Ravens. A big part of being able to stop the run will be the responsibility of Ngata, who is an absolute rock of muscle — no fat to be found on his 6-foot-4 330-pound frame. On the season the Ravens were the second-hardest team to run against (trailing San Francisco). They gave up an average of 92.6 yards per game. Ngata made 64 solo tackles, had five sacks and two forced fumbles this season. He is a load and has the ability to shut down the inside running game.

5. Texans WR Andre Johnson

The Texans aren’t supposed to be throwing the ball all that much, at least that’s their plan. But when QB T.J. Yates drops back at least he has one of the best in the biz to throw to in Johnson. This season has been a frustrating one for Johnson. The receiver missed nine games due to problems with both his right and left hamstring. When healthy, he is one of the best and his presence in the game won’t allow the Ravens to stack the box against the run. “He changes how we roll offensively,” Yates said. “He adds a different element to our game and it opens up other aspects of our game for the running game, because a defence plays us different when he’s on the field.” Johnson has good hands, runs disciplined patterns and has the speed to go deep. If the Texans need a big play, they are likely to call his number.

 


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