The Baltimore Ravens typical "bend-but-don't-break" defense bent a whole lot last night in their 34-28 overtime victory against the Houston Texans, but in the end did not break. They might have broken the hearts of the revived Texans and their fans when it appeared all the momentum and an eventual upset was on its way once Houston tied the game at the end of regulation and forced Baltimore to punt on its first possession of the extra period.
However, despite being over-matched in covering Texans WR Andre Johnson (9 catches, 140 yards), Ravens cornerback Josh Wilson stepped in front of a poorly thrown Matt Schaub pass out of his own end zone and high stepped it in for a game ending pick-six.
In addiiton to deflating the hearts of the Texans fans, I'm sure there were a lot of Pittsburgh Steelersand New York Jets fans out there in TV Land who turned off their television sets with disappointment at the final outcome.
The Baltimore Ravens dominated the game for a little over the first half, as they opened up the second half with a franchise-record 103 yard kickoff return by rookie David Reed, with some help from the Texans by abysmal tackling techniques. But then the tide turned quickly and ominously in Houston's favor. Other than the kickoff return, the Ravens had only one other possession, totaling 2:55 of the clock in the third quarter. In fact, combining the last 30 minutes of regulation, the Texans controlled the ball and the time of possession clock by a two-to-one margin, holding the ball for almost 20 of the half's 30 minutes.
It was obvious that the Raven defense was gassed, as you constantly saw mass substitutions along the defensive line and players leaning on their knees, gasping for air between plays. Watching Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson trudge after a scrambling Matt Schaub looked painful as he seemed about to fall over in pursuit out of exhaustion. Unfortunately, the reserves soon were out of breath as well and the Texans were running high on adrenaline as they closed the gap and eventually tied the game.
Overall, the game's total time of possession was virtually even (Ravens-31:18, Texans-31:47), but that was mostly due to Baltimore's first half domination as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead, only allowing the Texans to move a bit closer at halftime with a TD pass from Schaub to Johnson, poorly defended by an out of position Ed Reed.
Along the way to tying the game, Houston was 4-4 on fourth down, with Schaub constantly finding his receivers open for huge chunks of yardage, finishing 31-62 for 393 yards, three TD's and two interceptions, including the game-ending costliest one. Overall, the nail-biting win counts the same in the standings as a blow-out, which the game looked to be as the home team fans brought out the boo-birds in the second quarter, as everyone there as well as watching on TV thought the game was getting out of hand and was already over. But this is the NFL and the Schaub-to-Johnson combination is one of the best in the game and they proved it last night.
So much more to digest and expound on and we will get to it shortly, although the Ravens are already on their way to thinking and preparing for next Sunday's opponent, the New Orleans Saints, who propose a very similar, if not greater challenge.