Texans-Ravens: Five Keys to Pulling Off the Upset
|Keep the faith, Kubes.|
The game largely came down to offensive efficiency in the first go-round, as one would expect with two elite defenses. The Texans had three drives stall out and end in punts between the Baltimore 35- and 45-yard lines, when they were within a mere five yards or so of field-goal range. Another possession died when Arian Foster was stuffed (albeit with a blatant facemask that wasn't called) on 4th-and-1 at the 20.
Meanwhile, the Ravens scored 15 points (appropriately, the game's final margin) on five Billy Cundiff field goals, including three of 40 yards or more. Both teams ended the game with two touchdowns. The Ravens, however, came out victorious because they were efficient enough to find ways into field goal range and tack on additional points when Houston could not. With points likely at a premium, the Texans should think field-goal range first.
1. Don't panic if playing from behind
The Ravens have shown a distinct tendency to allow opponents back in the game after a fast start. In week 16 against the Browns, the Ravens stormed out to a 17-0 lead in Baltimore by the mid-point of the second quarter. From there, they scored a mere three points. In the second half, Cleveland cut the 20-0 lead to 20-14, and actually had the ball with five minutes left and a chance to win. They couldn't finish the comeback, but the Browns aren't the Texans, either.
In week 17 against the Bengals, Baltimore jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead before struggling to move the ball for much of the second half. Cincinnati closed the lead to 17-13 and had again moved into Baltimore territory in the fourth quarter, but an ensuing Jermaine Gresham fumble stemmed the tide.
There's also the matter of the divisional playoffs a year ago, when the Ravens led 21-7 at halftime -- only to wilt in the second half against the eventual AFC champion Steelers.
The Ravens are a confident bunch in Baltimore and rightly so, considering they went 8-0 there in the regular season. It's certainly possible they could ride that confidence to a fast start, as they did in week 6. In that game, the Ravens marched 97 yards in 16 plays on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead. But the Texans settled in, used a steady diet of Foster and Ben Tate to slow the momentum and had a legitimate chance to steal the game in the fourth quarter.
The Texans could easily have a similar chance to win come Sunday. To do so, it's imperative that coach Gary Kubiak remain dedicated to his plan no matter the momentum.
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