By Brien O’Donal
Despite what it may look like at times, the Texans are still in the hunt for a wild card playoff spot. A Monday night road game against the Baltimore Ravens could be just what the doctor ordered. The Texans come into the game with a 4-6 record, and the high esteem of getting their first win with Tom Savage under center last week.
In the end, they couldn’t beat a 5-5, up and down Ravens team and their season is getting too far away from them.
The plan looked to be a great defensive effort up front against the Ravens that could force the team ranked last in the NFL in passing offense to become one dimensional and play right into the hands of the Texans team that is ranked 6th in run defense. Jadeveon Clowney was determined to make that his mission from the first snap of the game to the end. It only took until the third play for him to make a statement. His quarterback hit caused Joe Flacco’s pass to flutter and take them off the field.
On the Texans first drive it appeared Tom Savage was a different player. He led the offense on a nine play, 90-yard touchdown drive to give them a 7-0 lead. He went 5 of 6 for 53 yards with big plays to Deandre Hopkins and Bruce Ellington. After a 19-yard pass interference call against the Ravens, Lamar Miller scored his third rushing touchdown of the season from four yards out.
The Texans defense continued to dominate up front, ending the next Ravens drive with back to back tackles for loss by Brennan Scarlet and Jadeveon Clowney for negative eight yards. The chance was there for the Texans, but Tom Savage’s up and down play came back to the fore as the next drive was ended by consecutive batted passes. Then the specials teams began to hurt the Texans.
After the defense held their ground again, returner Chris Thompson muffed the punt and it bounced backward seven yards to the Houston 15-yard line. Treston Decoud was there to jump on it but now they started their next drive with 85 yards to go for a score. They didn’t get much going and put the game back into the capable hands of the defense.
But the special teams unit let them down again. After just three plays the Ravens brought out their punting unit–but this time with a different play called. Punter Sam Koch perfectly executed the fake punt for a 22-yard completion to Chris Moore and the Ravens were in business. Two plays later Javorius Allen kept his legs churning and with an extra push tied the game at seven points with a nine-yard touchdown run.
And like Savage is apt to do, his next drive ended after only four plays when he threw his third interception of the season. Tony Jefferson snagged a third down pass thrown into double coverage at the Baltimore 41-yard line and returned it into Texans territory. The Ravens would add seven more points after five plays–one of which was a fourth and one conversion by running back Alex Collins that went for 29 yards. One play after that conversion he was in for Baltimore’s second rushing touchdown of the game and the 14-7 lead.
The Texans answered back before the half with a field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn, but points were left on the field as Tom Savage missed a wide-open Deandre Hopkins on first and goal from the four-yard line. This was the first of the Texans 11 first and goal drives from inside the five-yard line this season that did not end in a touchdown.
The veteran Ravens team took only 1:41 off the clock before the half to run 11 plays and add a field goal to reclaim a seven-point lead, 17-10.
After halftime Tom Savage began to look like the player he has been at his worst this year. After finishing the first half 13 of 20 passing, he was only 4 of 9 in the third quarter; often looking wildly inaccurate. They managed to get another field goal on a 13-play drive but were once again aided by Baltimore penalties.
Defenses for both teams held strong but looked to show signs of fatigue as a battle of field goals played out. The score was 17-13 in favor of the Ravens but a later drive would also end in three points as they reclaimed the 10-point lead.
Not to be outdone, Savage became the good quarterback again and began making great throws–including a 39 yarder to Hopkins. They stalled inside the red zone but another field goal would return it to a four-point lead in favor of Baltimore.
The Texans were in desperate need of something to break their way offensively but would not get it. In fact, Tom Savage would add to their woes by getting stripped by the 15-year veteran Terrell Suggs who now had two sacks and a tackle for loss in this game. The Ravens would turn that fumble into another field goal and a seven-point lead.
With Houston needing a touchdown to tie and only 2:26 left on the clock, Savage gave up his third turnover of the game. He left a pass hanging in the air for linebacker Anthony Levine to intercept. They were left with no times out and the Ravens having the ball on the short side of the field. A Joe Flacco run after the two-minute warning would seal the win for Baltimore and ruin any playoff dreams the Texans may have been holding on to.
Deandre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney continue to be the brightest stars on this team. Their efforts are overshadowed by the play of Tom Savage. Hopkins finished Monday’s game with seven receptions for 125 yards. Clowney had only one sack, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits; but his constant pressure required multiple defenders and he was a disruptive force all night. Ka’imi Fairbairn continues to kick field goals at a regular pace going three for three on the night and 12 of 14 on the season.
The Texans need to focus on continuing to get an all-out effort from their defense and another great season from Deandre Hopkins. The turnovers from Tom Savage can’t always be the reason they lose so there will be some compensation for that. They will need to get things fixed quickly as they go on the road for a divisional game against the Tennessee Titans. They won in blowout fashion in week 4, but it seems the shoe may now be on the other foot.