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Five Takeaways From Ravens' Win Vs. Texans

November 27, 2017
BALTIMORE -- The Ravens' opportunistic defense again was on display Nov. 27 as the Ravens generated three turnovers and did enough on offense and special teams to record a 23-16 win in the first "Monday Night Football" game at M&T Bank Stadium in five years. 

Safeties Tony Jefferson and Anthony Levine intercepted passes and linebacker Terrell Suggs forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Willie Henry as the Ravens held off the Texans and backup quarterback Tom Savage. 

Here are five quick observations about the Ravens' second straight win, which moves Baltimore (6-5) back above .500 for the first time since Week 5.

1. Terrell Suggs is still wreaking havoc at age 35.

Head coach John Harbaugh recently said Suggs is playing as well as he has in years, and he came up with one of the biggest plays of the game when he sacked Savage and forced a fumble midway through the fourth quarter with the Texans driving and trailing just 20-16. 

Suggs finished with four tackles and a pair of sacks, increasing his team-leading total to 9.5.  

The Ravens' rookie rush linebackers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams have been quiet this season, but they haven't needed immediate impact from them as long as Suggs has continued to play at an elite level in what he has described in the past as "the back nine" of his career. 

"He's Ponce de Leon -- you should put that on the back of his jersey," Harbaugh said. "He has found the Fountain of Youth. He's playing as well, or better, than I've seen him ever play since I've been here."

2. Joe Flacco doesn't look much like a playoff-caliber quarterback. 

The Ravens might end up in the playoffs, but Flacco hardly looks like a player who can put the offense on his back for a deep playoff run. 

Eleven games into the season, Flacco still has communication issues with his receivers, as more than once he and his receivers were not on the same page against the Texans. He still has accuracy issues, throwing too far out of bounds or behind his intended target. Whether these issues are related to lingering effects of missing all of training camp or not, this is not a formula to have sustained success in the playoffs against good teams. 

Flacco finished 20-for-32 for 141 yards and a 72.5 rating. To his credit, he did not make the critical mistakes that Savage did, but it says plenty about this offense that one of the longest pass plays in the first half was thrown by the punter. 

"If we believe we can win the Super Bowl with how we're playing right now, I'm all for it. I really am," Flacco said. "We can all take a look at that and say it's probably not super-realistic. … We need to be better on our side of the ball."

3. The Ravens are abysmal on third down.

The Ravens' inability to move the chains on third down has been emblematic of their offensive woes this season. They entered the game ranked 31st in the league, converting 32.9 percent of their third-down plays, and they were worse than that against the Texans, going 3-for-14. The Ravens converted one of their first nine third downs against the Texans, and that included a pass play of 0 yards on third-and-2, an incompletion on third-and-2 and a host of other incompletions.

They did convert two third downs on a third-quarter drive, but another failed third-down play on that drive led to a field goal. And after Flacco threw 3 yards to tight end Ben Watson on third-and-13 in the fourth quarter, boos rained down as the offense left the field for another punt.

When the offense can't sustain a drive, the defense is back on the field quickly and required to step up time and time again. It's a recipe for trouble.

4. The Texans showed the Ravens what an elite receiver looks like.

Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins came into the game leading the league in targets (115), with 62 catches for 879 yards. That is more than the Ravens' top four receivers combined. As expected, Hopkins was a prime target for Savage, and he gave the Ravens fits. Hopkins finished with seven catches on 10 targets for 125 yards. He battled for contested catches, and he led to several penalty flags being called on the Ravens, including a pass interference on cornerback Brandon Carr that set up the Texans' only touchdown. 

"His hands are like double my size, and they let him play physical," Smith said. "He catches the rock every time. That's his game. He's really good at it. Kudos to him.

"You want to go against the best. Tonight he got the better. If you go against the best, that's what happens. We got the win, and that's all that matters."

5. It wasn't pretty, but this win moves the Ravens one step closer to a playoff spot. 

It wasn't pretty, but style points don't matter in the NFL, and the win against the Texans gives the Ravens a 6-5 record and they remain on the inside track for a playoff spot. Other than the Pittsburgh Steelers, the four other remaining teams on the Ravens' schedule have a combined record of 14-30, including the winless Cleveland Browns. If the Ravens win three of their remaining five games, they would finish 9-7, which should mean they will be playing in January at least once. 

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka    

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox