Ravens' stout red-zone defense prevented a blowout against Texans

Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith, left, chases Houston Texans running back Arian Foster in Sunday's game.

As damaging to their playoff outlook and one-sided as the Ravens' 23-15 loss to the Houston Texans was Sunday, it could have been even worse.

If not for a stout red-zone defense that reacted well to sudden change behind three interceptions from quarterback Joe Flacco, this would have been a blowout.


The Texans scored just one touchdown out of their seven red-zone opportunities with that score coming on a 5-yard halfback option pass by running back Arian Foster to rookie tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. Texans kicker Randy Bullock kicked six field goals.

It was an impressive effort by the Ravens defense, albeit in a loss, and it contrasted the team's repeated failures' on offense.


"That's being good in the red zone for one thing," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "And we were all kind of ticked off about the halfback pass. But give him credit; he got it off under great pressure, and it was a trick play basically. That's a tough one to defend sometimes. They caught us on that.

"To be able to run back on the field when you're back there and not expecting to have to do it, it's why they call it sudden change. And the ability to do it with a positive frame of mind -- in the right kind of mood, but they approach in a way that says, 'Hey, you know what, it's OK. It's just another opportunity to do something even better than we expected.' That's the way you have to look at it."

The Ravens (9-6) need a win Sunday over the Cleveland Browns and help from the Kansas City Chiefs against the San Diego Chargers to qualify for the playoffs.

The Ravens' stingy red-zone defense and pass rush have been among the few consistent benchmarks the team can lean upon this season.

They rank second in the NFL in red-zone defense behind the Chiefs. The Ravens have allowed just 22 touchdowns in opponents' 52 red-zone possessions for a 52.3 touchdown percentage allowed. The Ravens have given up 40 field goals in the red zone for a 76.9 scoring percentage.

"To me, it's a metaphor for life," Harbaugh said. "I hate to get philosophical too much, but I think football is a metaphor for life, and it says, 'Hey, sometimes it's not going to be fair. It's not going to be right. It's going to be unexpected. You still better get the job done.' When you do a good job, it's even a little more special.

"On the flip side of it, we don't want to be putting our defense in that situation, but the defense basically says, 'Get them stopped wherever we get the ball.' That's what you admire about those guys. I don't know, they have probably been better at it than anyone in the league this year. I'm not sure, but they're right up there at the top of the league in sudden change defense."