The Ravens offense isn't the only one that needs to get off to a fast start in the first half of Sunday's game.
Obviously, every team wants to get an early lead, but scoring early will be just as important for a Houston Texans offense that is built to hold a big lead, not erase one. The Texans have one of the most balanced offenses in the league, but they want to get a lead, pound the ball on the ground with running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, then generate big plays with deep, play-action passes from quarterback Matt Schaub.
But in their Week 6 loss to the Green Bay Packers, they trailed, 14-0, at the end of the first quarter and were down, 28-10, early in the third. They couldn't muster enough offense to rally for a victory and lost, 42-24. Before then, they had not trailed by more than five points in the first quarter -- or at any point -- this season.
"That's one of the things we've pointed out, that when the Texans find themselves down, they kind of struggle a little bit," tight end Ed Dickson said Friday. "But it's always the goal of our offense, to start fast, no matter who we are playing."
The 5-1 Texans have outscored teams, 38-29, in the first quarter this season. They have been at their best in the second quarter, outscoring teams, 65-20. Their point differential is just plus-four in the second half, though in three of their wins, they were sitting on fat leads in the second half.
If the 5-1 Ravens get off to another slow start -- they have gone scoreless in the first quarter in six of their past 11 road games -- and fall behind early in Sunday's AFC showdown, they might not be able to catch up against a tough Texans defense and an offense that plans on hogging the football all afternoon.
"It definitely is a priority to get out and start fast, definitely on the road. The number one goal is to win, and that's one thing that has been pretty tough this year, to win on the road," running back Ray Rice said. "But the way our offense wants to be, the way our offense wants to play, is with the tempo. We've got to get out and try to start fast. Obviously, that's something that we can control, and it's all about execution."
It may seem cliché, but that's honestly what it comes down to. The Ravens can try to prepare for crowd noise and the elements and other issues they encounter on the road, but when it comes to trying to figure out how to get off to a fast start, it really is all about guys just making plays, which is easier said than done, especially against a team like the Texans.
"We would definitely prefer to come out and make a good first impression, and we haven't always done that," coach John Harbaugh said.