"Emotionally, it upsets you to see somebody come into your house and almost win the game," tight end Daniel Wilcox said. "They shouldn't have been close to winning this game, but we allowed that to happen."

It was the Ravens who received help on their only touchdown drive. Three penalties on Houston linebacker Antwan Peek gave first downs to the Ravens' 12-play series, which was capped by Boller's 6-yard plunge into the end zone.

After the Ravens went ahead 7-3 nearly two minutes into the second quarter, their offense wouldn't cross midfield again until the final drive. That meant it was up to their defense, which held their third opponent of the season out of the end zone.

The Texans did take a 9-7 lead early in the fourth quarter after a drop in the end zone by Andre Johnson forced them to settle for a 22-yard field goal.

Later that quarter, the Ravens' defense responded when linebacker Adalius Thomas caught a deflected pass and ran 20 yards untouched for a touchdown. The first score by the defense this season gave the Ravens a 13-9 advantage with 7:16 left in the game.

"It took a couple of days for the ball to come down," Thomas said about scoring his second career touchdown. "I felt like I was just like Prime Time [teammate Deion Sanders]."

Houston surprisingly battled back with a couple of field goals, the last being sparked by an inexplicable fair catch by kickoff returner B.J. Sams at his 10-yard line and a three-and-out by the Ravens' offense.

The Ravens rebounded, as well, but nothing came easy yesterday. On the final catch by Clayton, Mason was called for an illegal block, turning a 28-yard field goal into a 38-yard one.

"Yeah, effort-wise I think we can pick it up a little bit, as well as execution," Stover said. "But with regard to making the plays when we had to at the end of the game, that excites me."

The Ravens, who moved into a tie with the Cleveland Browns for last place in the AFC North, played without six starters. Their offensive line was hit the hardest after left tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring) joined right tackle Orlando Brown (back) and right guard Keydrick Vincent (thigh) on the sideline after two series.

That's why the Ravens felt there was no reason to justify them slipping past the NFL's only one-win team.

"I'd rather win ugly than lose great," linebacker Bart Scott said. "You take a win in this league when you can get it. I don't care if it's Dunbar High School in a scrimmage. Whenever you get one, you celebrate it and move on."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com