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Texans-Ravens: What we learned

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HOUSTON — After quickly acknowledging that the Texans’ defense got the better of him and the rest of the Baltimore offense, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco made a point to address the dismantling again.

Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson recorded two of three interceptions of Flacco and the Texans kept alive their postseason hopes with a 25-13 victory over the Ravens on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

The Texans (8-7) dominated Flacco and the Ravens (9-6) from start to finish, limiting Baltimore to 211 total yards and just 3.1 yards per play. Flacco finished 21 of 50 for 195 yards, with 135 yards coming in the fourth quarter as the Ravens mounted a futile rally. His first touchdown pass materialized only after Jacoby Jones provided the Ravens fantastic field position with a 45-yard punt return early in the third quarter.

“We got our ass kicked,” Flacco said. “It’s really simple. We did a lot of things not very well.”

Texans kicker Randy Bullock made a franchise record six field goals, five (35, 25, 30, 20 and 33 yards) in the red zone. Bullock rescued an otherwise pedestrian Texans offense, one on their fourth quarterback, the recently re-signed Case Keenum, at the controls this season.

Keenum, the Texans’ third starter this season, passed for 185 yards while completing 20 of 42 attempts. He was released prior to the season when Houston acquired quarterback Ryan Mallett in a trade with the New England Patriots, but with Mallett (pectoral) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (leg) lost for the season and rookie Tom Savage (knee) unavailable, the Texans signed Keenum off the St. Louis Rams’ practice squad this week.

“At the end of the day these guys have come in here, the latest example being Case, understanding this is pro football,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “The next man has to step up. Even if next guy wasn’t in the building a week ago, he showed up Monday and was ready to go.

“Like I said, he (Keenum) had good recollection. He’s a good leader and I thought he managed the offense very well today.

Texans running back Arian Foster finished with 96 rushing yards and also tossed a 5-yard scoring pass to rookie tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz.

Receiver Torrey Smith caught both Ravens touchdowns and finished with five receptions for 59 yards. Baltimore managed just 2.1 yards per rush and punted to conclude its first five possessions of the game.

What the Texans said:

“It was weird. I didn’t know what to do. You don’t have the ball, but you were a part of it, so I didn’t really know, like, do I go? Do I not? Do I play it cool? You know what I mean? So I just ran, so it was fun.” Running back Arian Foster on the dilemma on how to celebrate his touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz.

What the Ravens said:

“It’s a must-win game just like this one was but now we have no control so we’ve got to win. I don’t know what the scenario is but we’ve got to win and hope folks lose. That’s not a really good feeling but we’ve got a tough game ahead and Cleveland is a great team so we’ve got to pull it off and hope we get a Christmas present.” — Wide receiver Torrey Smith on Baltimore blowing a chance to win its way into the postseason.

What we learned about the Texans:

1. Quarterback Case Keenum really does have a functional command of the offense, despite being released just prior to the season. Keenum, who lost all eight of his starts last season with the Texans, was re-signed Monday and played admirably in leading the Texans to victory. Keenum posted only a 50.2 passer rating, but he kept his mistakes to a minimum (one interception) and managed the offense well enough for the Texans to record five red-zone field goals. “I really can’t put words on it,” Keenum said of his first victory. “It’s very special.”

2. Jared Crick might be emerging as a complementary bookend to All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt. Crick was a disruptive force Sunday, recording five tackles (two for losses), two quarterback hits, one pass deflection and one sack against the Ravens. Watt has been otherworldly despite the lack of consistent pressure from his defensive line mates, but Crick provided a dose of his potential.

–CB Kareem Jackson recorded his first career multi-interception game, picking off Ravens QB Joe Flacco twice to set up a pair of Texans scores. Jackson has three interceptions on the season and 10 for his career, the latter total ranking fifth in franchise history.

–RB Arian Foster passed for a touchdown for the first time in his career, connecting with TE C.J. Fiedorowicz on a 5-yard pass in the second quarter. Foster has rushed for eight touchdowns and caught four scoring passes this season. He is the first non-Texans quarterback to pass for a touchdown since the franchises inaugural season in 2002.

–WR Andre Johnson became the 10th player with 1,000 career receptions, reaching the plateau in his 168th career game. Only Marvin Harrison reached that benchmark faster. Johnson finished with six receptions for 65 yards and his 1,002 receptions ranks ninth all-time. “It puts you in an elite group,” Johnson said. “I tell people I never thought I would be in this situation.”

What we learned about the Ravens:

1. Even after guiding Baltimore to a Super Bowl, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco can be rattled. The Texans sacked Flacco only twice, but they hit him 10 times and recorded three interceptions and nine pass deflections. Flacco rarely appeared comfortable in the pocket, the constant duress leading to hurried throws and an inefficient performance. “They did some things up front, they got me on my back foot and had good coverage,” Flacco said. “They took away the main two guys. They did a lot of things. They were disruptive. Nothing came easy.”

2. The Ravens’ running game, a pleasant surprise this season, can be exploited despite its depth. Baltimore running backs Justin Forsett, Bernard Pierce and Fitzgerald Toussaint combined for 28 yards on 15 attempts, with Forsett departing in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury. The Ravens entered the weekend ranked fifth in total rushing, but their lack of a No. 1 running back might be an issue next week in the regular season finale.

–LB Elvis Dumervil was held without a sack and limited to one tackle and one quarterback hit despite the Texans trotting out QB Case Keenum, who made his first start of the season. Dumervil was tied for the league lead with 17 sacks and his one hit on Keenum was initially ruled a sack and forced fumble before an official review reversed the call to an incomplete pass.

–QB Joe Flacco produced a season-low 41.7 passer rating, doing so after posting ratings of 99.4 or better in each of the last four games. Flacco completed just 21 of 50 attempts for 195 yards and two touchdowns and three interceptions. He amassed just 60 passing yards entering the fourth quarter against an aggressive Texans defensive front.

–P Sam Koch averaged 50.4 yards per punt and contributed to a strong performance by the Rams special teams. Koch recorded a 57-yard punt and placed another inside the 20-yard line. His net of 44.9 yards nearly matched the 45.1-yard average by Texans P Shane Lechler.


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