Carroll County Times

Ravens see Texans as vulnerable against the pass

OWINGS MILLS - Eight Green Bay Packers drives. Six Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes.

With the Houston Texans defense struggling to generate a consistent pass rush, Rodgers picked apart the Texans' highly ranked pass defense. Even without top receiver Greg Jennings, Rodgers threw for 338 yards and tossed touchdowns on six of the Packers' first eight possessions as Green Bay rolled to a 42-24 win against the previously undefeated Texans.

Houston (5-1) is ranked eighth in the NFL against the pass, but has given up a combined 658 yards and eight touchdowns to the last two quarterbacks it faced not named Matt Hasselback or Mark Sanchez. Peyton Manning threw for 320 yards and two scores against the Texans in Week 3.

Houston hosts the Ravens (5-1) this afternoon.

"Houston really relies on their front to get pressure, which they're great at," Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "But when they don't get to the quarterback, there's some opportunities to make plays."

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is throwing for an average of 282 yards per game and has four pass catchers with 20 catches or more.

He was 17-of-26 for 234 yards and one touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys' top-ranked pass defense last week.

After being sacked four times in each of the previous two games, Flacco was sacked just once by Dallas.

Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson said it will be key to give Flacco similar protection against the Texans, spotlighting Houston defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith as players the Ravens' offensive line will be keying in on.

Watt leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks.

Watt had two sacks against the Packers last week, but was the rest of Houston's defense was held sack-less as Rodgers capitalized by exploiting the Texans' secondary.

"If we give Joe time, there's definitely stuff we can get in the passing game," Ravens tight end Ed Dickson said. "We have stuff we can exploit in both the passing game and the running game."

Houston's top cornerback, Johnathan Joseph, was beaten for two of Rodgers' six touchdowns last week. Joseph has been battling a groin injury and is questionable for today's game.

Fellow starter Kareem Jackson is a third-year player that the Texans took in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. He struggled during his first two NFL seasons, even getting demoted at one point last year, but is playing "good football" this year, according to Watt. He leads Houston with three interceptions.

Smith described Joseph as "a physical, fast player that can run with you" and Jackson as "really quick."

"They just have a solid defense all the way around," Smith said.

But the Ravens figure to provide a stiff test to that defense, both in the passing game as well as on the ground.

The Texans are entering their second game without talented fourth-year middle linebacker Brian Cushing.

Cushing suffered a season-ending knee injury against the New York Jets during Week 5.

Baltimore running back Ray Rice is seventh in the NFL in rushing (482 yards), averaging five yards per carry.

"They're a good football team," Watt said of the Ravens. They have a balanced attack. Obviously, Ray Rice is a great running back. Joe Flacco is a very good quarterback. They can do many things and we're excited for the challenge."

Baltimore and Houston are the only teams in the AFC with records better than .500.

The Ravens have won each of their six previous meetings with the Texans - five in the regular season and one in the playoffs. Baltimore beat Houston, 20-13, in the divisional round of last season's playoffs.

A win today would give the Ravens their first 6-1 start in team history.

"We know what's at stake," Dickson said. "We know the winner of this game is going to be at the head of the AFC right now. I'm not saying that the winner of this game is going to win the AFC, but we know that we can take control of it this week. That's one of our goals - just to take control and keep control."