Few players understand the game-changing capabilities of the Baltimore Ravens defense better than Ed Reed, who left the Super Bowl champions in the offseason to sign a free-agent deal with Houston.
Before his Texans debut Sunday, Reed warned his new teammates to respect the Ravens defense, which can turn a game with a single play.
"I told the guys coming into this game, defensively they're going to know every move that you're making, everything that you're doing," Reed said.
Unfortunately for the Texans, Reed was prophetic.
Baltimore linebacker Daryl Smith returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown late in the second half to spark the Ravens to a 30-9 victory Sunday.
Smith stepped in front of tight end Owen Daniels, intercepted a Matt Schaub pass and erased Houston's 6-3 lead late in the second quarter.
"It was something we saw on film during the week," Smith said. "We got pressure on the play and I jumped the route."
After a three-and-out by Houston (2-1), Tandon Doss scored on an 82-yard punt return. The rout was on.
"Over a four-play sequence, we give them 14 points," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "That's where the game turned, and we were playing catch-up all game long."
Houston compiled only 107 yards of offense in getting shut out in the second half. After scoring seven touchdowns in their first two games, the Texans were limited to three field goals by Randy Bullock.
Give much of the credit to the Ravens defense, which has not allowed a touchdown in eight quarters since a season-opening 49-27 defeat in Denver.
Then again, the Texans seem to think the biggest problem was their own execution.
"I'm not sure what they did, but I felt like we hurt ourselves," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "We gave them 14 points when our defense wasn't even on the field."
Said Kubiak: "We didn't get done what we had to get done to come in here and win. We were doing it for a period of time, then when something bad happened, we never regained any type of control of the game. We're not going to win anywhere on the road playing like we did today."
The Ravens (2-1) won despite playing without Ray Rice for the first time since 2008.
Watching from the sideline with a strained left hip flexor, the three-time Pro Bowl running back was replaced by Bernard Pierce, who ran for 65 yards and a touchdown.
The Texans fell to 0-4 in Baltimore, including a defeat in the 2011 postseason. Houston came in as a slight favorite, but the Ravens again proved formidable at home, where they're 35-7 since the start of the 2008 season.
It didn't help that the Texans were penalized 14 times for 113 yards.
"Guys were trying to make plays," defensive end J.J. Watt said, "but we cannot have that many penalties."
Schaub went 25 for 35 for 194 yards and an interception. He played much of the second half without wide receiver Andre Johnson, who bruised his shin.
"I did not think (Johnson) could run the way he needs to play, so we took him out," Kubiak said.
Schaub's most lamentable throw was the one that Smith took the other way.
"Poor decision on my part," Schaub said. "You got to be better in that situation, especially late in the half."
Joe Flacco was 16 of 24 for 171 yards to help the Ravens avenge last year's 43-13 blowout loss in Houston.
Baltimore got only four first downs and 65 yards in offense in the first half, yet went to the locker room with a 17-9 lead.
Houston held the ball for nearly eight minutes on its first possession, but settled for a field goal.
The Texans added another field goal in the second quarter after a short punt and a personal foul against the Ravens enabled Houston to start the series at the Baltimore 29.
But it all unraveled after that.
Baltimore's first possession of the third quarter resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run by Pierce to make it 24-9. Torrey Smith had two catches for 73 yards during the drive.
Notes: The game featured the return of Reed and Ray Lewis, who starred for years with Baltimore. Lewis was inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor at halftime. ... Ravens DT Terrence Cody sprained his knee in the first quarter and did not return. ... Ravens backup RB Shaun Draughn sprained his ankle. ... Houston was denied in its bid to go 3-0 for a second straight season. ... Smith became the 19th player in Ravens history to score on an interception return.
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