The Baltimore Ravens stayed in the AFC postseason with a 23-16 victory over the Houston Texans on "Monday Night Football." This is what we learned from the game:
1. Welcome to soccer purgatory. This is what happens when we have two medium-sized teams in prime time. Houston, with 4-7 and falling quickly (last week's victory over Arizona) after the loss of quarterback Wunderkind Deshaun Watson, hit Baltimore pretty desperate to avoid the seventh loss, which would be damning in the NFC. this year, but it would not completely sink the hopes of the Texans in the playoffs. They did not get what they were looking for.
Baltimore, meanwhile, was just as desperate (and despite the victory, still desperate) as Houston. Sitting at 6-5, the Ravens do not have much chance of winning their division, not with Pittsburgh sitting at 9-2 and showing no signs of slowing down. But with this confusing mess that is the American Football Conference in 2017, Baltimore only needs to accumulate some wins, because that wild card stand is open . They did it on Monday night, even if it was not nice and required enough mistakes from Tom Savage to make coach Bill O & # 39; Brien tremble with real frustration on the sideline. (It looked like the caricature's steam could be blown out of his ears.) At this time, winning was all the Ravens needed to do.
2. Monday Night Football badyst Jon Gruden spoke about Baltimore's potential when the teams converged on midfield. He called them "formidable" and "dangerous," and warned that Flacco could heat up, which, according to his career toward Super Bowl XLVIII, is true. But right now, Flacco does not look anything like that field marshal.
Maybe Baltimore saw something in the film that led them to believe that Houston was going to be quite weak on the back-end. The Ravens have two burners in Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, so that would play with their strengths. But by God, Flacco seems to have a repressed desire to let him fly on Monday night. In multiple shots, the quarterback was making deep shots that were five or more yards beyond his intended receiver. Flacco looked like someone pbaded the pre-game whispering in his ear that "they" do not think his arm is strong enough.
However, Flacco did his job. He finished 20 of 32 for 141 yards. It connected with nine different objectives. However, he did nothing extraordinary: punter Sam Koch had possibly the best pitch of the night with a successful fake kick, which is more or less what Baltimore's offense has been all season. Again we are not impressed (and his mark of 3 of 14 on third chance), but they also have another victory to smile with, which, in this league, is always difficult to discredit.
3. These Ravens win with defense and will need to use that defense more and more in the last five weeks if they want to reach the postseason. Fortunately, they have a pretty good group.
"This team was built on defense," said Terrell Suggs, who had two sacks and one forced fumble in the victory. … "We are a dangerous team in November and December, especially when we are healthy."
You're right. They are second in the league against the pbad and seventh in total defense. They have allowed 26 or more points only three times this season. Suggs is still a threat beyond the limit, and younger impact players like Matt Judon, C.J. Mosley and Jimmy Smith are having solid years. Tony Jefferson recorded his first interception as Raven. But they need to clean the penalties. Six of the seven Baltimore penalties were in the defense, and Houston won five first penalties. Of the 90 meters covered in Houston's opening touchdown series, 39 were won by penalty, that has to be better against better teams.
4. Without Watson, DeAndre Hopkins is truly the only bright star in Houston's injury-ravaged offense, and judging by his 10 goals, Tom Savage knows it. Unfortunately, Hopkins can not throw the ball to himself, but he can do everything possible to apply pbad interference penalties to the defenders when Savage throws him at him. He did it in crucial situations at least a couple of times on Monday, and finished with seven receptions for 125 yards. He did his part, but the next closest to receive was Braxton Miller (five catches, 43 yards), who only had seven receptions in the game. Houston is suffering in terms of weapons, and Savage's play (22 of 37 pbades, 252 yards, two interceptions) is not helping.
5. It's painful to imagine how different this game could have been if Watson had not broken his ACL, if Will Fuller had been available to play and if Houston had not traded veteran left tackle Duane Brown. The Texans were cut in the knees by injuries before Monday and did everything possible to become soldiers through a close game and achieve a victory. That meant rolling with Savage, who is very average at his best and relies too much on his arm at his worst, as evidenced by his interception that forced him into a window that was closed before throwing the ball. As much as one wants to support their history of helplessness, it simply is not the type. We know. O & # 39; Brien knows (surely seemed to want Watson immediately after the last interception of Savage). Fortunately, Texans owner Bob McNair also knows and gives a pbad to this group while he fights on nights like this.
6. Despite its statistical line, I tried to pump Alex Collins a bit last week at Around The NFL Podcast . This week, the film returns to be supreme for Collins. The runner continues to run hard, throwing pins over the defenders and constantly falling forward for additional yards, and almost recklessly, hitting the edge and running to the limit as he teeters on the verge of losing control of his own legs. His 60 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries do not jump off the stat sheet, but for an offense that is not exactly potent, he's just the kind of wrecking ball that Baltimore needs to maintain possession and get the clock up close. games while building on your defense to protect small potential customers. I'll stand in this soapbox while Baltimore keeps giving him the ball.