The Ravens aren’t the only team preparing for the rest of 2012 without Ray Lewis.
The Houston Texans, Sunday’s opponent, must also adjust their game plan on attacking a Ravens defense that will rely on Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, Brendon Ayanbadejo and perhaps Albert McClellan to fill the void created by the absence of the 13-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker, who tore his right triceps in Sunday’s 31-29 win against the Dallas Cowboys.
Houston can empathize with the Ravens after losing inside linebacker Brian Cushing in a win against the New York Jets on Oct. 8 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak acknowledged Lewis’ season-ending injury during his conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday morning.
“In all the years I’ve been in this league – whether it was in Denver or here – every time I’ve lined up, he’s been there, and I have such respect for him,” he said. “One of the all-time great players in this game. But I understand how it is. You lose players in this league. We’re going through the exact same thing with Brian, and that’s the hard part about this league. You’re going to lose a guy, you’re going to have to battle through situations, and how you handle those things over the course of the season usually has a lot to do with your success.”
* In three of his last five outings, Andre Johnson has finished with less than four catches and 60 yards and has failed to reach the end zone. It’s been a quiet start for the five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, but it’s not surprising because the team has trimmed Johnson’s playing time to preserve his health. “In the past, Andre would go play 70, 75 plays in a football game three or four years ago with no problems at all,” Kubiak said. “We’re trying to have that somewhere around 45 or 50 a week. We’re trying to take 20 snaps off of him and keep him fresh in the game and also keep a count on him throughout the course of the season because I think we may have worn him down a little bit in the past. So that’s what I’m talking about. Plus, we we’ve got a lot of confidence in the two young kids [Keshawn Martin and Lestar Jean] that are playing for us. They’re doing a pretty good job.”
* Arian Foster ranks second in the NFL with 561 rushing yards and the Texans rank sixth in the league on the ground. That doesn’t appear to bode well for the Ravens, who have surrendered more than 200 run yards in each of their last two contests against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys. But Kubiak said his team is not taking the Ravens defense lightly. “Well, we’re struggling ourselves,” he said. “We did not run the ball a lick last week, and we obviously weren’t very successful as a football team. We’ve struggled some early. We’ve had some changes. Our offensive line has kind of been re-done with our right side kind of being basically two rookies over there. So we’ve had our issues ourselves. The one thing that jumps out to me is, they may have given some yards on the ground, but they’re winning those games. The bottom line in this league is you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to win. So we’ve got ourselves to worry about right now.”
* Cornerback Johnathan Joseph’s recent propensity for surrendering big gains to opposing wide receivers has become more understandable in light of the revelation that he has been playing despite a sore groin. But Kubiak said giving Joseph, who has intercepted one pass and broken up four others thus far, a week off is not an option. “We’re full-throttle each week trying to win a game,” he said. “So hopefully, he’ll be ready to go. We would never risk any player that we didn’t think was ready to play, and like I said, this is something we’ve managed before and he’s gone out there and played very well. So hopefully, we can manage it again, but we’ll always do right by the player. But we need all hands on deck to try to win another game.”