Week Seven Ravens Opponent Preview: Houston Texans
BATTLE OF ONLY AFC TEAMS WITH WINNING RECORDS
By Joe Platania
What: Week Seven
When: 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 21
Where: Reliant Stadium; Houston, Texas (71,054)
Records: Ravens, 5-1; Texans, 5-1
TV: WJZ-TV, Channel 13 (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)
Radio: WIYY-FM, 97.9 (Gerry Sandusky, Qadry Ismail, Stan White)
ABOUT THE TEXANS
- The Houston Texans became NFL's 32nd and most recent addition in 2002. The expansion club replaced the Oilers, who moved out of town after the 1996 season. The Oilers' final game was a 24-21 win at Memorial Stadium, which closed the '96 campaign.
- The Oilers made 10 post-merger playoff apperances and 15 total; their 1994 Divisional loss to Kansas City was the last postseason game in Houston before the Texans beat Cincinnati last year. In between those games, there were 12 different Super Bowl winners, 20 new stadiums built, three teams that relocated and four that joined as expansion squads.
- When the Texans won their playoff debut against the Bengals, they became the first team to do that since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, which went on to win the Super Bowl. Another tie between the towns: the Baltimore Colts franchise that existed from 1953-83 had been known as the Texans (Dallas) before it went bankrupt and was purchased by local investors.
- The Texans finished last in the AFC South Division during five of their first six seasons and didn't have a winning record until a 9-7 mark in 2009. They slipped back to 6-10 in 2010, then strung together seven straight wins to go 10-6 last year and get their first-ever playoff berth with the No. 3 seed.
- Before 2011, the Texans had never made the playoffs, but came close in 2009. The Ravens won the final playoff seed instead of Houston that year, because of a better conference record (7-5 to 6-6).
- The Texans are the only AFC team that has never beaten the Ravens, having lost five regular-season games and last year's Divisional Playoff game at Baltimore. Going into Sunday's game, the two teams are currently the only AFC squads with winning records. Whichever team wins Sunday will go 6-1 for the first time in franchise history.
- The most recent Ravens game in Houston was a December 2010 Monday-night battle that the Ravens pulled out in overtime, 34-28, on Josh Wilson's interception-return touchdown. Houston rallied from a huge deficit to send the game to overtime; earlier during the game, Ravens returner David Reed set what was a club record with a 103-yard kickoff-return score; ex-Texan Jacoby Jones broke that mark and tied a league one Oct. 14 with a 108-yard score.
- That 2010 game was played under a closed roof at Reliant Stadium, a 1.9-million square foot facility with 44,000 of its seats near the sidelines. The facility hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII (38, Panthers-Patriots), the game best known for Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction. The NFL recently announced Reliant would bid for Super Bowl LI (51) in February 2017, against the loser of the San Francisco-Miami battle for Super Bowl L.
- The Ravens' win in Houston two years ago also featured a "Battle Red" promotion in Houston, in which the Texans wore all-red uniforms. That promotion will be in effect again this Sunday, so Houston will likely wear the red uniforms again, while the Ravens are to be clad in white jerseys and black pants.
- The Texans scored an AFC South Division-leading 391 points last year, a total that would have equaled the Ravens' single-season record. This year, they have scored 23 or more points during every game and 30 or more three times. Their most successful quarter has been the second, as they have outscored their opposition by a 65-20 margin. Houston has 44 points off turnovers, fourth in the AFC and just three fewer than Baltimore.
- Houston is a top-tier team in most statistical categories, with the seventh-best third-down conversion rate (43.8 percent), the 11th-best red-zone offense (56.5 percent touchdowns scored), the second-best third-down defense (27.6 percent, only Miami is better) and the 14th-best red-zone defense (50 percent touchdowns allowed). The Texans have a plus-5 turnover ratio, the league's seventh-best, and have committed 38 penalties, 14 fewer than the NFL-leading Ravens.
- Through six games this year, the Texans are ranked 14th in total offense (sixth rushing, tied for 18th passing, fifth scoring at 28.8 points per game) and sixth in total defense (seventh vs. both rush and pass, eighth scoring).
- Houston and San Francisco -- the teams the Ravens Report picked for the Super Bowl -- are the only teams in the league to be in the top 10 in all four major defensive categories. Houston is also the only team in the league to have not allowed a rushing touchdown.
- Seventh-year head coach and Houston native Gary Kubiak (53-51 overall, including postseason) has spent most of his career in the Denver shadows, as John Elway's on-field backup and Mike Shanahan's off-field assistant with the Broncos. But, thanks to Arian Foster's 2010 rushing title, Kubiak is the only head coach during the last five years to have produced a rushing, receiving (Andre Johnson) and passing yardage (Matt Schaub) champion.
- Kubiak has participated in six Super Bowls, three as a player and three as an assistant coach; Dan Reeves has the individual record with nine; two as a player, three as an assistant, four as a head coach.
- Former University of Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub (63.2 percent completions, eight touchdowns, four interceptions, 91.6 rating) is in his sixth year as the Texans' starter. But during three of those years (2007, 2008, 2011) he missed multiple games with injuries, including eight games (including postseason) with a broken foot last year. He is in the last year of his contract.
- Undrafted running back Arian Foster (league-high 4,694 scrimmage yards since 2010) has two career 100-yard rushing days against the Ravens -- including last year's playoff game -- and his 561 rushing yards this year are second in the AFC and leaguewide as well. He has scored during 10 straight games and has 19 career games of 100 or more rushing yards, along with 11 receptions.
- Thanks in part to Foster's running and the team's third-down proficiency, Houston's possession average of 34 minutes, 54 seconds is the NFL's best. Defensively, the Texans have allowed just two five-minute opponents' possessions out of 74 opportunities, the league's lowest total.
- Backup running back Ben Tate (Salisbury) is averaging 4 yards per carry and has two touchdowns. But he also has the team's only lost fumble of the year; the Texans have fumbled just three times all season. Lead-blocking fullback James Casey was a fifth-round pick in 2009 and has 18 catches, third on the team, with one touchdown. Former Maryland running back Davin Meggett, son of ex-Towson star and Super Bowl winner David Meggett, is on the practice squad.
- Wide receiver Andre Johnson missed nine games last year and has played less this season as a result. He has 731 career catches, four fewer than the Ravens' Anquan Boldin. Johnson's 25 receptions this year are second on the team and he is averaging 14.3 yards per catch with two touchdowns. During his last two games against the Ravens, Johnson has 17 catches for 251 yards. He has caught a pass during each of his last 88 games played.
- On the other side, Kevin Walter has 15 catches and one score, averaging more than 13 yards per catch. Tight end Owen Daniels leads the team with 26 receptions (best among AFC tight ends); he has three touchdowns. Daniels has caught a pass during 74 consecutive games.
- The offensive line has started all six games together and allowed just six sacks, fewest in the AFC and second-fewest in the league (NY Giants, five). The 150 sacks the team has allowed since 2007 are the league's fifth-fewest. Right tackle Derek Newton is a second-year newcomer, replacing the departed Eric Winston. Ten-year man Wade Smith and Andre Caldwell are at the guards and Duane Brown (no sacks, two penalties) returned at left tackle, with eight-year veteran Chris Myers (86 straight starts, 70 with Houston) at center.
- Pacing the defensive line is one of the NFL's most dominant defensive players, end J.J. Watt. He leads the league with 9.5 of the team's 17 sacks and has a team-high 32 tackles, 16 for losses and 15 quarterback hits. Watt has also broken up eight passes and recovered two fumbles. Watt turned a batted-down pass -- Houston had an NFL-high 25 bats in 2011 -- into a touchdown during the playoff game against Cincinnati last year. He had 2.5 sacks against the Ravens during the playoff game. Antonio Smith has two sacks and six quarterback hits; nose tackle Shaun Cody is no relation to Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody.
- The team's perennial leading tackler, Brian Cushing, is out for the season with a torn knee ligament, but the four-linebacker corps is still formidable. Inside are Tim Dobbins and ex-Dallas Cowboys starter Bradie James (28 tackles, fifth on the team). On the edges are Brooks Reed (2.5 sacks, five quarterback hits, three passes defensed, forced fumble) and Connor Barwin. Reed and Watt each had 2.5 sacks against the Ravens during last year's playoff game.
- Cornerback Kareem Jackson, the team's 2010 first-round pick, has three of the team's seven interceptions. Starting opposite him is former Cincinnati Bengals corner Johnathan Joseph, who is nursing a groin injury. He has one interception this year, but three career pickoffs against Baltimore. The corners have combined for 10 of the team's 40 pass breakups.
- Free safety Glover Quin is tied for first on the team with 26 solo tackles and strong safety Danieal Manning has 21. They have seven passes defensed between them. Former Philadelphia Eagles standout Quintin Demps is listed as a backup safety; he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against the Ravens in 2008.
- The Texans are having special-teams troubles. Houston is averaging only 17.6 yards per kick return -- next-to-last in the league -- and 9.2 per punt runback; Trindon Holliday is the primary return man, but Keshawn Martin is listed first on the depth chart. Punt coverage units are allowing 12 yards per return and the kick coverage team is yielding 25, both bottom-third rankings.
- Ex-Ravens and Cincinnati kicker Shayne Graham is 11-for-12 on field goals, having converted his last 11 straight. His 53 points are tied for sixth in the league, but his 10 kickoff touchbacks are 24th. Graham's 86.2 percent accuracy rate is fourth-best all-time. The Texans have kicked a field goal in a club-record 16 consecutive games. Former St. Louis punter Donnie Jones has placed only 11 of 32 kicks in the coffin corner and is netting 39.5 yards per punt.
- Reserve linebacker Bryan Braman blocked a punt during the team's loss to Green Bay last week and is tied for third in the AFC with seven special-teams tackles. It was the team's first blocked punt in almost seven years and the first returned for a touchdown since the team's 2002 debut season. Third-year long snapper Jon Weeks has handled 322 snaps with just one kick blocked, a point-after touchdown
- Special teams coordinator Joe Marciano's first professional coaching job was with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars (USFL) from 1983-85. The defensive coordinator is Wade Phillips, a head coach with five different NFL teams -- New Orleans (interim), Denver, Buffalo, Atlanta (interim) and Dallas. Phillips was a linebacker coach for the Houston Oilers in 1976 under his father, legendary character O.A. "Bum" Phillips. His units blitzed 48 percent of the time last year, second most in the league to New Orleans.
- Noteworthy Texans fans include two former presidents of the United States, prominent Houstonians George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush.
PREDICTION: This is a marquee matchup between the only two AFC teams with winning records. But the timing is bad for Baltimore in the immediate aftermath of two crippling defensive injuries ... Texans 30, Ravens 20.
Posted Oct. 18, 2012