By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens had this game circled on their calendar. Baltimore took a 43-13 spanking last season in Houston when these two teams last met. But this game was much more than one team trying to make amends. With the induction of Ray Lewis into the Ravens Ring of Honor and the return of now-Texans FS Ed Reed, this was about playing well in front of two of the all-time greats. And as usual with Baltimore, the defense delivered.
Offense Grade: C
The offense sputtered last Sunday against Cleveland and failed to gain traction the following week. Even with Ray Rice, the Ravens were struggling to get into any kind of rhythm. With Rice sidelined with a hip flexor strain, the production would decline even further. For starters, the offensive line has played quite poorly. The running backs have no running lanes to work with and Bernard Pierce was forced to take what the defense gave him. He would finish the game with 65 yards and the only offensive touchdown for Baltimore.
The receivers didn’t get much going today. Torrey Smith continues to excel with five catches for 92 yards, but the others failed to show up on the field. Marlon Brown was a non-factor with just six yards from two catches. Dallas Clark helped moved the chains as Flacco would target him seven times on the day. The offensive line didn’t really help give the receivers time to get open but the receiving corps as a whole needs to improve if this team hopes to take their game to the next level.
Defense Grade: A+
You just knew that the Ravens defense would show up with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in the building. The defensive front of Baltimore made Matt Schaub uncomfortable the entire game. Haloti Ngata and Arthur Jones each registered a sack. Terrell Suggs registered a sack of his own on Sunday as well. Schaub was hit a total of seven times throughout the game.
This defense knows how to get after the QB. When a defense can impose their will on an offense the way Baltimore can, it’ll lead to some turnovers. That’s exactly what took place when Daryl Smith picked off Shaub’s pass in the second quarter and returned it for a touchdown. That stole all of the momentum Houston possessed and they were unable to get it back.
The secondary for Baltimore played well once more at M&T Bank Stadium. Matt Elam continues to improve and Jimmy Smith continues to see his playing time increase. But the big story comes from James Ihedigbo who is without question the second best defensive back on the field besides Lardarius Webb. Ihedigbo was originally seen as merely a temporary starter before Elam gained more experience. But his play on the field has been too exceptional to keep him on the sidelines. He’s been a welcome sight for a team looking for consistency on defense. Speaking of consistency, the Ravens have now gone two straight games without allowing a touchdown of any kind. In a league defined by offense, that is quite an impressive accomplishment.
Quarterback Grade: C
Flacco was just your average Joe on Sunday. He finished the day with 16 completions for 171 yards and no touchdowns. As previously mentioned, his offensive line is giving him little time in the pocket. Though improved, his receiving corps still has plenty of work to do. But some of this has to fall on Flacco. He’s thrown a few inaccurate passes that have made things tougher on his receivers. He needs to improve in that aspect of his game. So far, he’s not looking like the $120 million quarterback that led his team to a championship last season.
Special Teams Grade: A
Justin Tucker improved on his Week 2 performance and finished 3 for 3 against Houston. The kick and punt coverage has also seen improvements as the team continues to prevent any big plays to sway field position. And while many expected the Ravens special teams to falter after the injury to Jacoby Jones in Week 1, Tandon Doss has filled in quite nicely. In fact, he made the most of his opportunity by scoring on an 82-yard punt return. That’s the fifth-highest punt return in Ravens history.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.