Each week, Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson looks back at the Ravens' previous game and ahead to their next opponent.
GAME PLAN: The Ravens' strategy of trying to establish the run backfired badly as they got stuffed repeatedly at the line of scrimmage by Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt. Because of the Ravens' inability to block Watt and defensive end Jared Crick, they couldn't get into manageable third-down situations. They didn't have any concrete answer for how to contain Watt and rarely provided chip-blocking assistance for their tackles. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the team didn't want to have to go into a maximum-protection blocking scheme and have wide receivers double-covered. Part of the reason offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's approach was so ineffective is because center Jeremy Zuttah couldn't stop the Texans' blitzes through the center-guard gap, as inside linebackers Brian Cushing and Akeem Dent busted into the Ravens' backfield seemingly at will. With the running game shut down and quarterback Joe Flacco under siege, there was barely a semblance of a passing game.
PERSONNEL: Injuries affected the offensive line configuration in the fourth quarter, when right tackle Rick Wagner left the game with a season-ending Lisfranc foot sprain and left tackle Eugene Monroe also injured his foot. That forced undrafted rookie James Hurst into the game, and he moved over from right tackle — where he initially replaced Wagner — to play left tackle when Monroe got hurt. Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda stepped in at right tackle and rookie John Urschel played right guard in place of Yanda. Running back Justin Forsett left the game in the fourth quarter after turning his ankle. Instead of backup Bernard Pierce replacing him, undrafted rookie Fitz Toussaint got the playing time and carried the ball four times for 11 yards with two catches for 20 yards on five targets. Pierce played three snaps, 17 fewer than Toussaint. Tight end Owen Daniels played 97 percent of the snaps, missing just two plays. Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore was limited to 14 snaps. Even will all the playing time, Daniels caught only one pass for seven yards on six targets. Wide receivers Steve Smith and Torrey Smith played 56 and 51 snaps, respectively. Both receivers were targeted 12 times with Torrey Smith catching five passes for 59 yards and Steve Smith catching five passes for 49 yards. Marlon Brown played a season-high 50 snaps but caught only one pass for 10 yards on five targets. One week after losing a fumble, fullback Kyle Juszczyk played only 12 snaps. The defensive players with 100 percent participation were cornerbacks Rashaan Melvin and Lardarius Webb, free safety Will Hill and rookie inside lnebacker C.J. Mosley. Veteran middle linebacker Daryl Smith played all but one snap. Nose tackle Brandon Williams played 64 snaps and often throttled Texans center Chris Myers. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs played 64 snaps. Strong safety Darian Stewart started ahead of Jeromy Miles and played 62 snaps, 40 more than Miles. Defensive linemen Chris Canty (44 snaps), Lawrence Guy (27 snaps) and DeAngelo Tyson (19 snaps) rotated. Tyson played for the first time in several weeks. Safety Matt Elam played just eight snaps on defense. New cornerback Antoine Cason was active for the first time but didn't play on defense. He was limited to special-teams work.
WHAT WENT RIGHT ON OFFENSE: Virtually nothing was accomplished on offense other than Flacco emerging from the game relatively unscathed. Torrey Smith caught a pair of touchdowns to make the final score more respectable. Jacoby Jones had a 45-yard punt return and a 40-yard kickoff return.
WHAT WENT WRONG ON OFFENSE: Flacco was under duress throughout the game, as his blocking failed him and he failed to get rid of the football quickly enough. He was hit 10 times, sacked twice and hurried 14 times. Flacco was 0 for 7 on deep throws. When under pressure, Flacco had a 15.2 quarterback rating. He finished with a season-high three interceptions and completed just 21 of 50 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 41.7. Yanda, the Ravens' top offensive lineman, didn't grade out nearly as well as he usually does. Hurst was completely overmatched against Watt, and Wagner held his own occasionally before leaving the game. Forsett didn't break a single tackle and was body-slammed for a loss by Watt. He rushed for a season-low 19 yards on 10 carries. The Ravens rushed for a season-low 33 yards on 16 carries, a 2.1 average per run.
WHAT WENT RIGHT ON DEFENSE: The Ravens largely contained unheralded quarterback Case Keenum, as he completed only 20 of 42 passes for 185 yards, no touchdowns and an interception for a 50.2 passer rating. Daryl Smith dished out some big hits, including one at the sideline that drew a flag when he struck a sliding Keenum. McPhee generated a ton of pressure up the middle. The Ravens kept Arian Foster in check for the most part as he rushed for 96 yards on 25 carries, averaging 3.8 yards per run. Targeted 10 times, Melvin allowed just two receptions for 42 yards as he challenged receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hoplkins in press coverage. Webb allowed just three catches for 21 yards on six targets.
WHAT WENT WRONG ON DEFENSE: Suggs and Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil had no sacks. Dumervil had one quarterback hit; Suggs had zero. Foster scampered from the defense on a 34-yard Wildcat run. Mosley struggled in pass coverage, allowing five catches for 45 yards on six targets.
KEY PLAY: With the Ravens trailing 9-0 in the second quarter, the defense was put in another unenviable sudden-change situation in the red zone after Flacco threw an interception. Unlike the Texans' six other red-zone opportunities, the Ravens couldn't stop them from scoring a touchdown this time. After taking a pitch, Foster lobbed a five-yard pass for a touchdown to rookie tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. Although the Ravens scored two touchdowns after halftime, it wasn't really competitive after this score boosted the Texans' lead to 16-0.
BEST HIT: Crick crushed Flacco early in the game, delivering a blow that appeared to shake up Flacco mentally and physically. He was visibly uncomfortable after that play and short-armed several throws and also threw off his back foot.
GAME BALLS: 1. Melvin and Webb (effectively shadowed Texans wide receivers); 2. Daryl Smith (11 tackles, one pass deflection); 3. McPhee (six tackles, two for losses, two quarterback hits, one pass deflection); 4. Williams (credited with two tackles, but roughed up Myers and forced Foster to adjust his running lanes).
INTANGIBLES: The Ravens came out flat and were simply beaten up physically. They lacked intensity and appeared to be intimidated by the Texans.