Once again, the Ravens are a team defined by defense. In the past few seasons, Ravens fans finally got used to feeling excited when the team's offense took the field. Even when an aging defense struggled, Joe Flacco and Co. could survive a shootout. But Sunday's game reinforced a story that began the previous week against the Cleveland Browns. We've teleported back to 2000; defense is again king in Baltimore. First, the defense kept it close, holding the Houston Texans to field goals on two red-zone possessions that seemed destined for touchdowns. Then, the unit flipped the momentum of the game, swarming Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and creating points where the offense could not. Daryl Smith's first career interception return for a touchdown only highlighted what an essential addition he has been at linebacker. Ravens players and coaches have talked about it since early in training camp. "That was just a great play, and I've seen him make it many times in practice," said coach John Harbaugh, describing how Smith read Houston's route perfectly. Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs continued to look rejuvenated after 2012 seasons beset by injuries. Suggs created a sack off a frightfully quick spin move, and Ngata later bulled up the middle for his first sack of the season. "The line was just tremendous," Harbaugh said after the game. It was. The Ravens appeared vulnerable to Houston's two-pronged rushing attack in the first quarter. But they took away that and everything else in the last three quarters, despite playing with only four linemen after Terrence Cody went out with a knee injury. Since the Denver Broncos embarrassed them on the NFL's opening night, the Ravens have played some of the best defense in the league. With the offense still finding its way, that will likely have to continue for the Ravens to make a sixth straight playoff appearance.
Christopher T. Assaf, Baltimore Sun