In a game that appeared to be all going the Baltimore Ravens' way in the first quarter, it ended up taking almost every second of the full sixty minutes in order to secure the AFC Divisional Playoff victory, as the Ravens held on to top the Houston Texans, 20-13.
Up 17-3 in the first quarter, many might have thought this game was virtually over, but for whatever reason, the Ravens offense faltered against a very tough Texans defense, which smothered RB Ray Rice and swarmed QB Joe Flacco most of the game. However, two early TD passes by Flacco plus a Ravens defense that followed their mantra of "bend but don't break," shut out the Texans in the second half.
With the offense unable to even get a half yard that would have secured the victory much earlier, it was the defense that rose to the occasion, with three interceptions of Houston QB T.J. Yates, including two by CB Lardarius Webb. Ed Reed had the other pick, missed at least one more and played his heart out so hard that he needed to be literally carried from the field at the end of the game.
Played played his typical solid game and showed why Ravens fans felt he was snubbed in Pro Bowl voting. A few clutch throws, catches and runs made the difference and while there were definitely missed opportunities in the game for the Ravens, they were playing one of the top defenses in the league, which came here to play and they showed up big-time.
Winning the turnover battle proved to be the difference in the game, as a huge fumble off of an inexplicable decision to field a punt deep in Texans territory led to Baltimore's first TD. With two of the league's top defenses, it was apparent that whoever won the turnover battle would win the game, and that is how it played out.
Before anyone decides to complain over the play-calling, execution and missed opportunities, remember what type of defense the Ravens were facing today, compared to the one they will be facing next Sunday afternoon in the New England Patriots. At the same time, the Patriots will be a much different offense to defend against, posing a completely different challenge for this defense.
The result of the game was a win, which puts the Baltimore Ravens in a position that 28 other teams would gladly trade places with us for. To that end, the Ravens are in the AFC Championship Game for the second time in four years and have an excellent chance to reach the Super Bowl. Enjoy the week, feel free to pick apart the game, but I for one will take this game for what is was - a win.