The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Houston Texans 23-3 on Saturday in an freezing AFC Divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium. Temperatures hovered around 20 degrees for the rematch between these teams.
Ravens Defense Stifles Texans Attack
The Ravens defense, ranked #2 in the NFL, smothered the Texans offense all game. They sacked Texans QB CJ Stroud 4 times and intercepted him twice. Ravens LB Roquan Smith had 15 tackles and 1 sack to lead the defensive effort.
“We knew their strengths and weaknesses coming into this game after playing them in week 2,” Smith said. “The coaches had a great game plan to stop their running game and put pressure on Stroud.”
The Texans offense gained only 212 total yards in the game, with just 67 coming on the ground. Stroud finished 15 of 29 passing for 145 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs.
“That Ravens defense is no joke, especially playing here with their crowd noise,” Stroud said postgame. “We’ll learn from this and come back stronger.”
Jackson Leads Efficient Ravens Offense
On the other side, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson was efficient if not spectacular. He went 14 of 22 passing for 180 yards and 1 TD while adding 57 rushing yards. The Ravens compiled 331 total yards despite having just 45% possession time.
When asked about the Ravens offensive performance, Jackson said “We know we can score quickly when we need to. The plan was to control the clock as much as possible since our defense was playing so well. I’ll take the win however it comes.”
Ravens rookie TE Isaiah Likely had a big day, catching Jackson’s lone TD pass along with 4 other receptions.
|Time of Possession
Ravens Avoid Major Injuries Despite Cold
With temperatures below freezing throughout the game, one of the biggest concerns for the Ravens was avoiding injuries. They got through without any major issues.
“The cold was brutal but our guys did a great job preparing all week,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “We practiced outdoors and had heaters on the sidelines today.”
There were concerns earlier in the week that the bitter temperatures could force the game to be postponed. However stadium officials were able to keep the field heated and playable. Fans also had to bundle up, with most wearing the warmest Ravens gear they could find.
“My toes were frozen by the end but it was worth it to get the win,” said long-time Ravens fan Dan Collins. “Lamar and the defense showed why they’re Super Bowl contenders today.”
Ravens Advance to Face Bills in AFC Championship
The victory propels the AFC’s #1 seeded Ravens to the conference championship game next Sunday. They’ll host the #2 seed Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
The Bills smashed the Cincinnati Bengals 34-7 earlier on Sunday. Bills QB Josh Allen continued his MVP caliber season, passing for 242 yards and 3 TDs without a turnover.
When asked about facing Allen and the Bills, Ravens all-pro CB Marlon Humphrey said “We know it’ll be another battle next week. Josh Allen is having an unbelievable season. But we have a ton of confidence playing at home with our fans behind us.”
Early betting lines installed the Ravens as slim 1 point favorites at home. With two explosive offenses and aggressive defenses, the AFC Championship promises to be a hard fought game that could come down to the final possession.
Texans Look Ahead to Promising Future
While certainly disappointed in the loss, the future looks bright for the upstart Texans. Led by 24 year old Stroud, rookie RB Dameon Pierce, and a talented young defense, most experts predict they’ll remain contenders in the AFC South.
“We accomplished a lot this season but still have higher goals,” said Texans coach DeMeco Ryans. “Our core players gained valuable experience today that will pay dividends going forward. Our time will come.”
Texans fans have to feel good about the direction of the franchise under GM Nick Caserio and coach Ryans. With another solid draft and free agency period, they should return even stronger next season.
Today belonged to the Ravens and their suffocating defense though. Baltimore looks primed for a third Super Bowl appearance under John Harbaugh as they continue chasing the franchise’s first title since 2012-13. But they’ll have to get past Allen and Buffalo first in what promises to be an instant classic AFC Championship showdown.
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