Depleted Ravens visit Texans
HOUSTON — The Baltimore Ravens are standing in Houston's way again, only this time without Ray Lewis and their best cornerback.
The Ravens (5-1) lost and Lardarius Webb to a season-ending injury and put Lewis on injured reserve — with the possibility of returning later in the season — this week, crippling blows to a defense that was already not quite what it used to be. Tackle Haloti Ngata (knee) and safety Ed Reed (shoulder) are also hurting, but linebacker Terrell Suggs practiced this week for the first time since tearing an Achilles tendon in April. Suggs was activated Saturday.
“You can complain all you want, but nobody cares,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for you.”
No matter who plays for Baltimore, the Texans (5-1) still see the same hard-hitting Ravens who shut them down twice last season, the second time in the playoffs.
“They've still got talent. They always have,” Houston quarterback Matt Schaub said.
Baltimore has never lost to the Texans in six meetings, and this matchup comes with potentially far-reaching implications.
The Ravens and Texans share the best record in the AFC, and both already have the inside track to their division titles. They're the only teams above .500 in the AFC and they're both unbeaten against AFC opponents, so Sunday's winner will have a leg up in possible tiebreaking scenarios.
“I know it's early in the season,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said, “but this game carries a lot of weight down the road.”
The Texans are also looking to regain some swagger after a humbling 42-24 loss to Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay. Rodgers threw six touchdown passes — matching the total that Houston allowed in the first five games — and the Packers piled up 427 yards.
“I think it's just a clunker,” Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “Sometimes, you have those.”
Houston also showed some cracks on offense, mostly up front. Schaub was sacked three times, Arian Foster was held to 29 yards rushing, and Houston mustered only 321 total yards.
Baltimore's defense has been shaky this year.
The Ravens rank 26th in run defense and in yards allowed, jeopardizing the unit's streak of nine consecutive seasons ranking among the top-10. They've allowed more than 200 yards rushing in each of their last two games.
“We have to take a stand,” said safety Bernard Pollard. “Two weeks in a row, 200 freaking yards rushing? We have to take a stand on what we do. We have to walk out there with pride.”