The Texans exited Reliant Stadium yesterday with more than a resounding victory. Though, they got that, too. They bludgeoned the Ravens 43-13, giving the home team their biggest victory ever as a franchise. It was the most points they’ve ever scored. The impression they made on the NFL was immense.
“We lost to a really good Houston Texans team,” Ravens LB Terrell Suggs told me. “We didn’t lose to a team who don’t know what their identity is. We lost to a really good team today on their home field.“
Yet it was more than a win. The Texans also go into their bye week with essentially a two-game lead in the AFC, and that puts them in prime position. The Ravens are actually one game behind, but losing the tiebreaker, it acts like two. Patriots are next at 4-3.
So… life is pretty good in Houston.
“It’s a great position to be in,” owner Bob McNair said. “We still have a long ways to go, but we have a little time to rest and have some minor injuries heal up and then we’ll be ready to go again. We just have to keep grinding. … If the season was over right now it would be wonderful, but it is not. I’m very happy that we are playing as well as we are. We are missing Brian Cushing, but I think the defense stepped up and showed that they can play well without him. Even though he was having his best year, we miss him very much, but the whole team is coming together and I’m very proud of them.”
What was the most impressive thing yesterday?
Actually, there were a few. CB Johnathan Joseph coming back from a poor game against the Packers to turn in a pick-6. And pass-rusher Connor Barwin had his first sack after getting shut out all season and having three near-misses last week. And how everyone gets into the shot-blocking game. And how Matt Schaub managed the offense. Joseph and Barwin both kinda got on the scoreboard. That turned the defense into one where it’s all clicking.
“Connor and I have been getting blanked the last couple of weeks,” Joseph said. “We always say we’re always tied together. As soon as he made his sack and I made my interception, we both went over to each other and I was like, ‘Hey man we are starting to get something rolling here.’ Anytime, whether it’s Connor or anybody in the back, we are all pulling for each other.”
All this without Cushing. The Texans are now two games into their battle to forget the loss of their leader. The Ravens, of course, are dealing with this with Ray Lewis. But anyway, two games is enough time to move on. Cushing isn’t coming back, other guys need to play, and everyone loses people. That’s what the Ravens must do.
“It is a similar story and I understand what losing a guy that is such an integral part of what you do,” RB Arian Foster said. “That’s this league. Guys go down all the time. You hate to see it, especially a guy like Ray Lewis, who’s been the face of that organization for 15-plus years. But that’s a good ball club. They have a good head coach. I love their passion and the style they bring to the game. So I am more than confident that they will be back and we will see them again.”
What did the Texans do? Find other people to make plays. Coach Gary Kubiak was asked about one big play in the game by the defense, though there were many.
“I think it’s not only a big play in the game, but it’s big for the rest of the season because I think when you lose a player two weeks ago you lose a Cush and all of a sudden you come in last week, it’s the human nature to say ‘Okay, how are we going to be?’ ” Kubiak explained. “We walked out here and didn’t feel good about it last week. What we found out today we can still play great defense and expect to do that the rest of the year. Same thing we went through offensively, like I said, it’s about responding to adversity and this team really did this week. There was a good edge in practice this week. Everybody’s pretty quiet. I think we were really, really locked into what we were doing. We know how important it was to get to our bye with this win.”
What does Kubiak feel best about?
“The thing I feel best about and you probably won’t believe I’m going to say this, I really think October was even better than September,” Kubiak said, and he’s right. “I know that’s hard to believe, but when you looked at going to New York, Green Bay, and Baltimore in the month of October and for us to get out of it 2-1 and to lose a player like we lost, I think it was a hell of a month. We won’t play again until November, but it’s a good start like I said. We had three really difficult weeks of preparation against three very tough teams to prepare for. We were able to get out of it 2-1 so I feel good about that.”
I was talking to Flacco on the field before the game, and they have a bye, too. He was saying how much he wanted a win before the break, saying how that adds to the good feeling. Instead… it’s the Texans that benefit.
“It’s big,” WR Andre Johnson said. “It was a big game for us. Both teams were 5-1 and we knew that whoever won this game would be the top team in the AFC. Once again, it’s just one game. Good football team. We’re probably going to end up seeing them down the road. We just have to stay focused, enjoy this bye week, rest up, heal up and get ready for Buffalo.”