On a day where one Ravens legend returned to see his name go into the team’s Ring of Honor, another former teammate returned with a different uniform after being in a Baltimore uniform for the last 11 seasons.
71,168 fans at M&T Bank Stadium saw a dominant and statement-making performance from the defense and just enough offense in the 30-9 victory over the Houston Texans.
What was ironic was the revamped defense – the new era of Ravens football – that made its presence felt in front of both the watchful eyes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. It was as if the defense wanted to show not only Lewis and Reed, but possibly critics and fans alike that this defense will be fine, football and life moves on past two future Hall of Famers. It was a bend, but-don’t-break mentality in the 1st half, and pure domination in the 2nd half.
A funny moment happened during Tandon Doss‘ return for a touchdown, CBS cameras caught Lewis on the sideline, urging Doss down the field. It wasn’t quite the type of urging we saw during #52′s career, more a casual wind of the hand as he awaited the Ring of Honor celebration at halftime.
For the second week in a row, Doss has contributed positively to a football game. Maybe this is the beginning of something good for him. It’s been a long three seasons.
Speaking of two weeks in a row, that holds true for a defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown during that time period. This is the beginning of what their true potential can be as a unit.
Up front, they stymied and bullied the Texans offensive line, allowing just 94 rushing yards, getting sacks from Haloti Ngata and Arthur Jones, all the more impressive doing it with the injuries sustained in this unit. The rotation of players by defensive coordinator Dean Pees really keeps guys fresh and attacking with the personnel they line up.
You can’t say enough about linebacker Daryl Smith. This guy is a complete workhorse and a steal for the Ravens this season. Smith recorded ten more tackles in the game, one of those for a loss and a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown that swung the momentum the Ravens way the rest of the game. The big play on defense has returned for Baltimore.
Question: Name me one free agent after three weeks that has made more of an impact and added value to a defense than Daryl Smith?
His “pick-six” is also the Ravens 30th INT-TD since 2003, an NFL best. Smith has elevated his play, something no one saw in Jacksonville, well, because its the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil got pressure on Texans QB Matt Schaub for most of the afternoon and Suggs finished with a big time sack. He has three in as many games. Its fun watching these guys get after it, almost one-upping each other on passing situations. Its certainly scary for offensive tackles going against them at full strength.
Coming out of this one, the cornerback play of the Ravens played very impressive, mind you against a very solid group of receivers in Andre Johnson and the emerging DeAndre Hopkins. Jimmy Smith has put together a few strong weeks in a row along with Ladarius Webb who played aggressive and fast to the football.
Same goes with Matt Elam as it seems the move to bench Michael Huff was a smart one. Elam is already showing how heady of a player he is and both he and James Ihedigbo tackled well in coverage. Elam defended one pass, while Ihedigbo defended two.
Bernard Pierce turned in a solid effort as Ray Rice sat this one out, dealing with the strained hip flexor. Pierce wore down the Texans defense in the 2nd half, rushing 24 times for 65 yards. He showed decent vision, but there’s a reason Rice is the starter. Rice is the more elusive back and can diagnose a hole and get through it. You have to love Pierce’s toughness and physicality running the football however; he wears defenses down.
It was two different halves of football for the offensive line. The first half in particular for the line, which had Flacco scrambling and uncomfortable.
Because of it, the offense looked terrible in the first two quarters, reminiscent of last week’s win against Cleveland. Things turned in the Ravens favor in the 2nd half as they wore down the very good Texans defensive line. Really impressed with the way Marshal Yanda handled J.J. Watt. At the point of attack, Watt wasn’t much of a factor, though he managed one sack.
Good news. There was a Dallas Clark sighting. Clark was targeted seven times, and caught four passes for 46 yards. His longest catch was 21 yards. He had some tough drops to begin the season, but with reps, it seems like he’s settling in and that’s good news for Joe Flacco who is begging for anyone other than Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown to catch passes.
Speaking of Brown, he had a quiet afternoon, in terms of stats, catching two of his three targets. What translates watching Brown are his hands. Very soft hands for the rookie, its evident he can catch pretty much anything thrown his way. He made the most of his two catches, despite it being for just six yards.
The Ravens sent a message to the rest of the AFC today by completely dominating the Houston Texans, allowing just nine points and holding a very good offense without a touchdown all afternoon.
They face off the next two weeks against the AFC East, traveling to Buffalo to take on the Bills and the following week to Miami against the upstart Dolphins.