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Keenum manages to lead Texans to victory

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HOUSTON — The Houston Texas sent out an SOS for a veteran quarterback when Ryan Fitzpatrick (fractured tibia) and Tom Savage (hyperextended knee) were injured at Indianapolis.

Former Texans quarterback Case Keenum, who was on St. Louis’ practice squad, was deer hunting with a bow and arrow when his agent, Jeff Nalley, called to tell him the Texans were interested.

Keenum, who was 0-8 as a starter last season and didn’t adjust well to head coach Bill O’Brien’s system in camp and preseason, was waived on Aug. 31 when they acquired Ryan Mallett.

Keenum arrived in Houston on Monday and took a crash refresher course in the Texans’ offense. What he did in the 25-13 victory over Baltimore was amazing – one mistake that resulted in his only interception.

He ran for three first downs and finished with 185 yards and a 50.2 passer rating. He attempted 42 passes and wasn’t sacked by a defense that registered 14 in the last two games.

“What he did was huge,” center Chris Myers said. “To see what he went through with St. Louis and then come in here early in the week and be able to put together that kind of performance, it speaks a lot about his character and dedication.”

Keenum worked overtime with quarterbacks coach George Godsey during the week. O’Brien and Godsey took a long look at what they thought Keenum could do best. They looked back at what he excelled at when he played for the University of Houston.

O’Brien and Godsey decided to spread the receivers and let Keenum operate like a point guard distributing the ball on short passes to his right, left and in the middle. The idea was to get rid of the ball fast to avoid the Ravens’ pass rush, move the chains and control the clock.

The Texans had the ball for 34 minutes, 58 seconds to Baltimore’s 25:02.

“It’s crazy,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “You just don’t see that, especially with an offense as complex as the one we run. It asks a lot from the quarterback. His recall was great. He didn’t skip a beat. He worked his tail off, and I really commend him for his efforts.”

O’Brien expects Keenum to play better in the last game against Jacksonville.

“I compared it to taking a couple years of Spanish and if you were to ask me how to say whatever, I wouldn’t be able to tell you, but when you go through and review it again, it comes back,” Keenum said. “A lot of stuff came back after I reviewed it and went over it again. We had a great game plan, and the coaches did a heck of a job getting us all ready to go.”

REPORT CARD VS. RAVENS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B — That’s a high grade for a quarterback who threw for only 185 yards, completed less than 50 percent of his passes, didn’t throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted once. But considering Case Keenum was on St. Louis’ practice squad six days before he played against Baltimore – not to mention he was hunting deer with a bow and arrow when his agent called — he put on a remarkable performance. He was 20 of 42. He wasn’t sacked by a Ravens defense that had eight in the last game and 14 in the last two games. He only made one bad decision when he failed to read a safety on his interception. He’s the fourth quarterback to play for the Texans this season and the third to start. The offensive line did an outstanding job on pass protection.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B — To offset the Ravens’ powerful run defense, head coach Bill O’Brien called for six direct snaps to running back Arian Foster, who threw an option pass for a touchdown. Foster had a 34-yard run out of the wildcat and finished with 96 yards on 25 carries. They ran 38 times for 123 yards to try to take the pressure off Keenum. Because they ran so much and mixed a lot of short passes, the Texans controlled the block for 34:58.

–PASS DEFENSE: A — Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel dialed up a lot of blitzes and tried to disguise them and the pass coverage. They had three interceptions, including two by cornerback Kareem Jackson that set up a field goal and touchdown. Joe Flacco was sacked twice by J.J. Watt and Jared Crick, but he was hit 10 times, including four by Watt. Torrey Smith caught two touchdown passes, but Flacco was discombobulated most of the game, finishing 21-of-50 for 195 yards and a 41.7 rating.

–RUSH DEFENSE: A-plus — The Ravens entered the game ranked fifth in rushing and finished with 33 yards and a 2.1-yard average per carry. Justin Forsett was limited to a season-low of 19 yards on 10 carries. The outside linebackers set the edge. The interior linemen tied up blockers and freed linebackers to make tackles.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Randy Bullock kicked a team-record six field goals, the longest being 39 yards. The Texans couldn’t score touchdowns in the red zone, but Bullock made sure they came away with points. There were 16 punts in this game. Shane Lechler had a 45.1-yard gross and a 34.5 net, but he put three inside the 20 and two inside the 10. They allowed Jacoby Jones to have a 45-yard punt return and average 30 yards on kickoff returns.

–COACHING: A-plus — Bill O’Brien, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and quarterbacks coach George Godsey did a terrific coaching job preparing the team and on game day. The defense confused Joe Flacco and shut down the Ravens’ offense. Godsey did a great job preparing Case Keenum. O’Brien pulled out all the stops with his play-calling, including six direct snaps and Arian Foster’s first option pass for a touchdown.


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