BALTIMORE - For as much as the Ravens struggled defensively during their season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos, their defense since that game has been everything Baltimore had hoped it would be.
The Ravens limited the Cleveland Browns to just six points last week. And on Sunday, the defense largely shut down a talented Houston Texans offense, lifting Baltimore to a 30-9 victory over a team that beat the Ravens 43-13 last season.
Special teams played a role as well. Tandon Doss had an 82-yard punt return to push the Ravens' lead to 17-6 late in the second quarter.
But while Baltimore's offense had trouble moving the ball against the Texans' defense, the Ravens' defense held Houston to three field goals and got a momentum-shifting interception return from linebacker Daryl Smith late in the second quarter.
Baltimore was behind 6-3 prior to that play but led the rest of the game.
"That's just a great team win," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I commend the football team for playing rock-solid football, for displaying the mental toughness to beat a team of that caliber, to overcome a first quarter the way we did ... when our defense or offense had no field position.
"[For] our defense to step up and keep them out of the end zone ... I thought was outstanding."
The Texans drove 69 yards for a field goal on their opening possession of the game. But Houston's final 10 possessions produced just six points and 195 yards.
"We feel like we can be a great defense," Harbaugh said. "We're still working towards that. [But] we talked about this last night. We do feel like we're as far along as we could possibly be right now with this group."
The Ravens allowed a franchise-record 49 points during the loss to the Broncos, but they haven't allowed a touchdown in either of the two games since.
"Our defense, we've been praising them all along," Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "Obviously, we're all going to have ups and downs, but we wouldn't rather have any defense than those guys."
Houston had some success on the ground in the first half, but the Ravens held the Texans to just 16 yards on seven carries during the second half.
Meanwhile, Baltimore sacked Houston quarterback Matt Schaub three times and held Schaub to just 194 yards through the air. The Texans were just 3 of 12 on third down.
"It's a testament to [defensive coordinator] Dean Pees," Ravens safety James Ihedigbo said. "He put together a great game plan for us. We showed them multiple looks on defense, a lot of guys moving around."
Ihedigbo later added: "Houston's going to be one those teams ... they're going to be in the hunt. And to do this against a team like this, we're continuing to set the bar high."
But the Ravens' offense continues to have problems. Baltimore had 30 points Sunday, but the offense produced just one touchdown.
The field position didn't help. The Ravens started four of their eight drives inside their 8-yard line. Regardless, Baltimore expects to be able to gain more than 236 yards on offense.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw for just 171 yards, and Baltimore's running game produced just 75 yards or 31 carries without the injured Ray Rice.
"We are a young team," Flacco said. "We have a lot of new guys, and we were thin at the running back position today. We are going to have some growing pains throughout the first couple of weeks.
"I have said all along the biggest thing will be [whether] we win while we have those. So far, the last two weeks, we haven't played great, but we've managed to win football games against two pretty good football teams."
And if there is any silver lining from a stat standpoint Sunday, the offense did produce points on three of the four drives that didn't start inside its own 8.
The offense provided just three points during the first half but drove 80 yards in nine plays on its opening possession of the second half and finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run from Bernard Pierce that extended the Ravens' lead to 24-9.
Flacco finished with just the 171 yards, but he was 9 of 12 for 118 yards during the second half, including 3 of 4 for 76 yards on that scoring drive.
Two of his three completions converted third downs. One was a 48-yard pass to Torrey Smith on third-and-13. And later, he had a 24-yard completion to Smith that picked up a third-and-7 and advanced the ball to Houston's 8-yard line.
Behind Flacco, Baltimore was six of nine on third down after halftime, a key in the Ravens controlling the ball for 17 minutes and 45 seconds of the second half after possessing the ball for just 11 minutes, 39 seconds of the first half.
"It was just a good team victory," Flacco said. "Our defense really held in there all game. They did a good job hanging in there while we were trying to get our feet under us. Really, from the middle of the second quarter on, we played a good team game of football."