HOUSTON – The showdown was a beatdown.
The Baltimore Ravens were no match for the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon.
The Texans showed everybody who’s boss in the AFC, taking the Ravens to the woodshed with a 43-13 victory.
And this, just a week after Green Bay had creamed the Texans, 42-24.
“It’s about responding to adversity, and the team really did that this week,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “There was a good edge in practice this week. Everybody was pretty quiet. I think we were really, really locked in to what we were doing.”
Said Texans wide receiver Kevin Walter, who had four catches for 74 yards and a score: “Everyone around the league wanted to see, ‘How is this team going to respond? They played well their first five games, then they got their butt handed to them last week. We’ll see what these guys are all about.’”
What the Texans were all about was applyin’ an old-fashioned butt-whuppin’ to the banged-up Ravens, in front of 71,708 – the largest regular-season crowd at Reliant Stadium in the Texans’ 11-year history.
That wasn’t the only milestone. It was the first time in seven tries the Texans had ever defeated the Ravens, it was the most points the Texans have ever scored in a game, and it was the worst loss of head coach John Harbaugh’s five-year tenure in Baltimore.
Are the Texans the real deal?
“They are. They are,” veteran Ravens safety Ed Reed said. “They’ve been there for the last few years. I know how those guys work.”
Houston improved to 6-1, while Baltimore fell to 5-2. They entered the game as the only teams in the AFC with a winning record. Both have byes next week.
After the Ravens took a 3-0 lead on their first possession, the Texans dominated – on both sides of the ball.
The Texans scored 29 unanswered points before halftime, and their efficient, dual-threat offence piled on the points with a pair of long, will-breaking drives in the second half.
Houston quarterback Matt Schaub was outstanding. By halftime he was 19-of-32 for 190 yards and two touchdowns. He finished 23-of-37 for 256 yards.
Schaub successfully picked on Ravens cornerbacks Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith, the latter of whom filled in for Lardarius Webb – Baltimore’s top corner who went down for the season last week with an ACL tear. And Schaub had lots of time to throw.
“We’ve got a lot of playmakers on the team,” Schaub said. “When we are able to spread the ball around, that is when we are at our best.”
That’s what he did. Top wide receiver Andre Johnson caught nine balls for 86 yards, and tight end Owen Daniels had seven for 59 and a score. Besides Walter, four other receivers had at least two grabs.
Even more than the offence, it was the Texans’ defence that showed that when it’s on, it’s as good as any in the league.
“We found out today we can still play great defence, and we expect to do that for the rest of the year,” Kubiak said.
The Texans’ defensive front continually harassed Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, flustering him as he hadn’t been all season. It was thorough domination. By game’s end, the Texans sacked Flacco four times, hit him eight times, batted down five of his passes at the line – plus six others in the secondary – and hurried him numerous other times.
“We put the pressure on him,” Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “They’ve been one of the top offensive teams in the league. And for us to play the way we did I thought was excellent.”
In a particularly miserable first half, Flacco was just 7-of-20 for 52 yards. He was sacked twice, once for a safety, and he was picked off twice, once for a touchdown – by star Texans cornerback Johnathan (J-Jo) Joseph.
Flacco had it so tough, that after completing his first pass of the game for 13 yards to Torrey Smith, he didn’t have another completion longer than eight yards until 10:36 remained in the third quarter. By then it was 29-3 for Houston.
The only deep pass Flacco threw all game was the pick-six by Joseph.
“They played physical. They played fast. We just weren’t able to stand up to it today,” Flacco said.
Baltimore finished with a paltry 176 yards of total offence, only 121 through the air.
“We’re a very confident football team,” said Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who despite not getting a sack for the first time since last December had two more pass knockdowns, giving him 10 on the season. It’s the first time in NFL history a defensive lineman has had double-digit pass knockdowns through seven games.
“We believe in our coaches, we believe in each other. And if we got out there and execute our assignments, we’ve very, very difficult to beat.”
At least in the AFC.