(CBS Baltimore) — The Houston Texans have had a nice long break to recover from their Thursday night loss to the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Unfortunately for them, Week 2 offers no let up in the competition. The Texans will host the Baltimore Ravens for their home opener in Houston this Sunday.
The Ravens are coming off a 38-6 dismantling of the Cleveland Browns that already has Baltimore fans talking Super Bowl. Lamar Jackson looked every bit the incumbent NFL MVP, completing 20 of his 25 pass attempts for 275 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing for another 45 yards. Tight end Mark Andrews hauled in six catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. The Browns defense couldn’t stop them. The game was eventually so far out of reach that Ravens coach Jon Harbaugh was criticized for leaving Jackson in the game late into the fourth quarter.
“And when you bring it back to Lamar, not only did he improve in the offseason, [but] decision-making, looked very decisive about where to throw the football,” says NFL On CBS analyst Charles Davis. “Only one real bad throw as far as I’m concerned that should have been picked off when he was short on the throw downfield. But after that, he was able to change arm angles, able to see it, able to look people off and come back and hit Andrews in the end zone.”
Jackson isn’t the only Raven to show growth over this unusual offseason. “Mark Andrews continues to improve as a tight end,” says Davis. “They can use him split out as a wide receiver at times. They didn’t even have to run the ball with their normal authority to have a good offensive attack which I think bodes well for them…”
In short, they looked unstoppable, at least against they perennially under-achieving Browns.
On the other side of the ball, Baker Mayfield actually completed more passes than Jackson (21 to Jackson’s 20). But his Browns could only turn that into 189 yards and six points. They turned the ball over three times and generally looked out of sync. That will happen with a new coaching staff implementing a new scheme in a season without preseason games.
While Mayfield and the Browns are still finding their way at QB (or not finding their way, depending on who you ask), the Ravens defense deserves plenty of credit too. The unit came into the season projected to improve upon last season’s top-five ranking. And they set the tone early with an interception on the Browns’ opening drive. Rookie linebacker Patrick Queen collected eight tackles and forced a fumble.
The Browns’ many weapons were held largely in check. Jarvis Landry caught five passes for 61 yards, while Odell Beckham Jr. caught only three passes for 22 yards. Neither found the endzone. Nick Chubb, who torched them for 165 yards on the ground in last season’s matchup in Baltimore, was held to just 60 yards.
The Ravens defense will face a stiffer challenge from Deshaun Watson and a Texans team that boasts one the NFL’s better offenses, when they show up. In their loss to the Chiefs, Watson displayed the skills that make him a dual threat. He scored a touchdown with his arms and another with his legs, totaling 253 yards on 20 of 32 passing. Will Fuller caught eight of those for 112 yards. New arrival David Johnson added 11 carries for 77 yards.
But much of Watson’s production came late in the game. After the Texans’ first-quarter drive for 80 yards and the lead, Houston couldn’t maintain the momentum. Watson faced pressure all day and was sacked four times. The offense couldn’t do anything with the ball. The Texans trailed by multiple scores by the time they put more points on the board three quarters later. The game was basically over at that point, even though the final score, 34-20, seemed much closer.
“DeAndre Hopkins isn’t there (in Houston) and you ran your offense through him,” Davis points out. “The ball is going to be spread more, everyone is going to have to step up and make plays. They have a plethora of guys who I think are good receivers. It’s just a matter of being ready, being available and understanding that the ball is going to come your way a little bit more.”
The Ravens, favored by seven points this Sunday, don’t have a history of slow starts like the Chiefs. They’ll press from the opening kickoff. The Texans will need to keep pace to avoid the Browns’ fate and falling into a 0-2 hole. They couldn’t do it against the Chiefs, and this Ravens offense probably won’t spot them the first-quarter head start.
The Ravens play the Texans Sunday, September 20 @ 4:25 pm ET on CBS.