OWINGS MILLS - Sunday's win over the Houston Texans was many things for the Ravens - a win over one of the top teams in the NFL, a statement-type early season victory and an encouraging overall showing.
But defensive coordinator Dean Pees was particularly prideful about the win because of the factors that led to it.
"I told the team that that was one of the most gratifying wins in my career," said Pees, who has more than 30 years of coaching experience at the college and professional level. "And not necessarily because it was Houston but because I can't recall the last time that I played a game and didn't give up one big play."
Pees considers a big play a pass play that goes for 20 or more yards or a run that goes for 15 or more yards.
The Texans have one of the more explosive offenses in the league, but Baltimore's defense limited them to just nine points and 264 total yards while not allowing a pass to go for longer than 18 yards or a run to go for more than 10.
Pees was also pleased with the way the Ravens limited Houston after the catch.
Poor tackling was an issue during Baltimore's loss to the Broncos and contributed to some of Denver's big plays.
But against Houston, Pees said the Ravens allowed just 35 total yards after the catch on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub's 25 completions.
"It was really gratifying to see that," Pees said. "I told the team, I said, 'It wasn't so much that we didn't give up a touchdown.' It was that we played the game like it's supposed to be played on defense.
"We got off the field on third down, we didn't give up big plays, we tackled well, [and] we stopped the run. You do those four things every week, you've got a chance to be pretty good."
INJURY NOTES: Running back Ray Rice (hip) practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day Thursday and appears to be on track to play against the Buffalo Bills Sunday.
Same with defensive end Chris Canty (groin), who, like Rice, was injured against the Browns and missed the game versus the Texans.
Defensive lineman Terrence Cody (knee), outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee) and center Ryan Jensen (foot) all missed practice for a second straight day, but wide receiver Marlon Brown (neck) was a full participant in practice Thursday after missing practice Wednesday.
Running back Shaun Draughn (ankle) practiced on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), defensive lineman Brandon Williams (toe) and inside linebacker Arthur Brown (chest) were all limited participants for a second straight day.
For Buffalo, defensive end Mario Williams (ankle), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles), wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hamstring), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and right guard Kraig Urbik (knee) all returned to practice on a limited basis after not practicing Wednesday.
RETURNING KICKS: Especially with Draughn banged up, Thompson could return kicks Sunday.
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg acknowledged as much Thursday.
Thompson was the Ravens' primary kick returner the first five games of last season. He lost the job after fumbling against the Kansas City Chiefs, but he did average 25.9 yards on 15 returns and had a return that went for 49 yards.
Thompson is arguably the fastest player on Baltimore's roster.
"The decision will be made on Sunday as to exactly who we have up and what roles they're going to have," Rosburg said. "Deonte demonstrated a year ago that he has the skills to do that.
"If I'm not mistaken, he had the second-leading kick return average in the league, but he didn't have enough reps to qualify. So, he's had success, too, and he understands it. I think he'd probably be pretty excited about that opportunity should it come his way."
SPECIAL ADDITION: Rosburg had some lofty praise for new Ravens safety Jeromy Miles, whom Baltimore acquired through waivers earlier in the week.
Miles signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and played for the Cincinnati Bengals the last two-plus seasons, primarily on special teams, before being released by the Bengals last week.
"We've had to block Jeromy Miles for the last few years," Rosburg said. "We've had him blocking us the last few years. We're excited he's on our team doing those things for us because he's been a force in our division."