Ravens 20, Texans 13: Historic Season Ends from Self-Inflicted Wounds
With little playoff experience and on a third-string rookie quarterback, this shouldn't rank high on the list of Houston football collapses. This wasn't the Oilers in Denver and Buffalo, circa 1992 and 1993.
But make no mistake: The Texans were the better team on Sunday, and they let a trip to the AFC championship game slip through their fingers (more precisely, Jacoby Jones's fingers).
They know it.
"It just stings right now," said head coach Gary Kubiak. "We were a couple of mistakes from winning the game."
The Texans left the Ravens bullied and bruised. Wade Phillips's defense executed its plan to perfection, completely flipping the script from when the Ravens wore them down in a 400+ yard effort in week 6.
This time, the Ravens had a mere 227 yards. They went 3-and-out five times in the second half. Joe Flacco was sacked five times. Three fumbles were forced, although all miraculously bounced back to the home team.
This game had all the makings of a 13-3 suffocation, in which Arian Foster (27 carries, 132 yards, one touchdown) should have been able to burn clock and wear the vaunted Baltimore defense down, all while the Texans' unit harassed Flacco into sacks and mistakes.
The Texans controlled both lines of scrimmage all day, beating the Ravens in their own house at their own physical game. It was an incredibly gutsy effort in which any Texan fan can be proud.
He'll be back
"They talk about how tough the Ravens are," said team owner Bob McNair. "Well, I tell you, they ain't as tough as the Texans."
Unfortunately, a trio of unforced errors made it all for naught.
The Bill Buckner-esque muffed punt from Jones practically handed the Ravens seven points. Later in the first quarter, T.J. Yates inexplicably forced a throw to a blanketed Andre Johnson, and that interception led to another seven Baltimore points.
The Texans found themselves in the position they knew they couldn't afford -- down big (17-3) against an elite defense with Yates at quarterback -- and 14 of the 17 Baltimore points came via unforced errors.
"If we didn't turn it over, it's a different game," said Kubiak.
But if there's one thing we know about Kubiak's Texans, it's that they don't quit. They certainly didn't on Sunday. After falling into the early hole, they settled in and dominated Baltimore on both lines of scrimmage for much of the second and third quarters, punctuated by a 12-play, 86-yard scoring drive that ended with a Foster touchdown. That cut the lead to 17-13.
The momentum continued in the third quarter, but a familiar bugaboo returned for the Texans with Neil Rackers's inconsistency on long-range field goals. With the wind at his back, Rackers was short on a 50-yard kick that would've closed the gap to 17-16 and put the Texans within a field goal of the lead.
Instead, they remained down four -- needing a touchdown -- and the missed kick set up Baltimore at its own 40-yard line.