BALTIMORE (AP) — On a day when the Baltimore Ravens played without Ray Rice and scored only one touchdown on offense, the defending Super Bowl champions were rescued by defense and special teams.
Daryl Smith had a 37-yard interception return for a TD, Tandon Doss took a punt 82 yards for another score, and the Ravens smothered the Houston Texans’ high-powered offense in a 30-9 victory Sunday.
The Ravens (2-1) won despite playing without Rice for the first time since 2008. On the inactive list with a strained left hip flexor, the three-time Pro Bowl running back was replaced by Bernard Pierce, who ran for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Houston (2-1) led 6-3 before Smith picked off Matt Schaub’s pass and took it into the end zone with 2:39 left in the first half. Less than two minutes later, Doss eluded several tacklers during his first career punt return for a touchdown.
The defense made the lead stand up. The Ravens have not allowed a touchdown in eight quarters since their season-opening 49-27 defeat in Denver.
Schaub went 25 for 35 for 194 yards and an interception. He played much of the second half without wide receiver Andre Johnson, who appeared to have an ankle or foot injury.
After scoring seven offensive touchdowns in their first two games, the Texans were limited to three field goals by Randy Bullock.
Joe Flacco completed 16 of 24 passes for 171 yards to help the Ravens avenge last year’s 43-13 blowout loss in Houston.
The Texans fell to 0-4 in Baltimore, including a loss in the 2011 postseason. Houston came in as a slight favorite, but the Ravens again proved formidable at home, where they’re 35-7 since the start of the 2008 season.
The game featured the return of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, both of whom starred for years with Baltimore. Lewis was inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor at halftime, and Reed made his debut with Houston at free safety after signing with the Texans as a free agent in March.
Baltimore got only four first downs and 65 yards in offense in the first half, yet went to the locker room with a 17-9 lead.
Smith’s first career interception return for a touchdown turned the momentum. The linebacker stepped in front of tight end Owen Daniels and sprinted down the right side to make it 10-6.
The Ravens then forced a punt, and Doss — subbing for the injured Jacoby Jones — scored with 45 seconds remaining. That left enough time for Schaub to position Randy Bullock for his third field goal.
But Houston was blanked over the final 30 minutes.
Baltimore’s first possession of the third quarter resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run by Pierce for a 24-9 lead. Torrey Smith had two catches for 73 yards during the drive.
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