Published November 20, 2014
It looks like the Houston Texans' defense will be just fine without Brian Cushing.
The Texans scuffled a week ago in their first game without the star linebacker, but bounced back Sunday with a dominant defensive performance in a 43-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Matt Schaub threw for two touchdowns, Arian Foster ran for two more and the defense had a score and added a safety to help Houston bounce back from a 42-24 loss to Green Bay last week.
"When you lose (Cushing) and all of the sudden you come in last week, it's human nature to say: 'OK, how are we going to be?' coach Gary Kubiak said. "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."
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said the team needed a game like this to forget about last week.
"We wanted to come out and make a statement," Phillips said. "I thought it was a great game for us."
The win leaves the Texans (6-1) with the best record in the AFC entering their bye week.
"I think a lot of people were just seeing how we would respond after what happened last week," Andre Johnson said. "I think we responded well."
Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, an outside linebacker who was selected last season's defensive player of the year, played for the first time since surgery in May to repair a torn right Achilles tendon. But the defense wasn't the same without star middle linebacker Ray Lewis and top cornerback Lardarius Webb, who were placed on the injured reserve during the week.
The Ravens gave up their most points since a 44-20 loss to Indianapolis in 2007, and Houston's 43 points were the most in franchise history.
"We can't come here and make mistakes like we made and expect to be in the game," safety Ed Reed said.
But the problems weren't limited to the defense as the Ravens (5-2) lost to Houston for the first time in seven meetings. Joe Flacco was 21 of 43 for 147 yards with two interceptions, and Ray Rice was held to a season-low 42 yards rushing.
"I'm not sure what to say about that other than they got after us and they beat us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They played excellent, we did not."
The Ravens led 3-0 in the first quarter after a 51-yard field goal by rookie Justin Tucker. It was his third of more than 50 yards this season, which is the most in a season in team history. He made it four with a 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Houston's offense couldn't do anything early. It was OK though as the defense got the Texans on the board. Connor Barwin took down Flacco in the end zone for his first sack of the season and a safety to make it 3-2 in the first quarter.
"The safety was certainly a big play," Phillips said. "We were a little loose on the first series, but I thought after that we played lights out."
The Texans started clicking on offense on the next drive, but not without a small hiccup. Schaub badly overthrew a wide-open Kevin Walter before finding him four plays later for a 25-yard touchdown to give Houston a 9-3 lead late in the first quarter.
J.J. Watt tipped a pass on the first play of the second quarter and Johnathan Joseph returned it 52 yards for a touchdown to extend Houston's lead to 16-3.
Suggs was disappointed that his first game back was such a lopsided defeat, but thinks the Ravens should be encouraged with their 5-2 record entering their bye week considering all the injuries they've had.
"We know we've got some work to do," he said. "This is a very emotional time for us. Losing probably one of the greatest middle linebackers in the game and losing your starting corner, that's going to hurt. We've got some young guys that have got to step up. I've got to get healthy, I've got to get better."
Reed, who said this week that he's been playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, left in the fourth quarter with a chest injury. He said he felt fine after the game.
Schaub found tight end Owen Daniels in the back of the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown reception about six minutes before halftime. The play was reviewed and upheld to make it 23-3. That drive was helped by a nifty 20-yard reception by Garrett Graham.
Whitney Mercilus tipped a pass that Glover Quin intercepted by getting one hand on it and grabbing it as he fell to the ground. Houston capitalized on the turnover with a 29-yard field goal to lead 29-3 at halftime.
Flacco finally got the Ravens in the end zone with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tandon Doss to cut Houston's lead to 29-10 with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
Foster scored in his team-record ninth straight game on a 1-yard run later in the third quarter to put Houston up 36-10.
He added another score in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 43-13.
NOTES: Johnson had a season-high nine catches. ... The announced attendance was 71,708, the largest regular-season crowd in Texans' history. ... Baltimore rookie RT Kelechi Osemele was carted off the field in the second quarter with a brace on his right leg. The team said X-rays on his ankle came back negative and he returned to the game in the second half.
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