By Jay Betsill
Sunday – September 22 – Noon
M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore
The Houston Texans needed a franchise-record 21-point comeback to win their opener on the road at San Diego 31-28, winning on a field goal as time expired. For Week Two, they roared back from an eight-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the Tennessee Titans in their home opener to win 30-24 in overtime. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Texans are the first team since the merger in 1970 to win each of its first two games of an NFL season on the final play of the game.
“We survived today because of some great heroics and plays by him,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said of rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. With star receiver Andre Johnson out of the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion following a big hit by Titans safety Bernard Pollard. Pollard, who wasn’t penalized on the play, was fined $42,000 by the NFL this week for his hit on Johnson. Of note, Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson was fined the same amount for what appeared to be a targeted helmet-to-helmet shot on Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright.
Up next for the Texans is a road contest against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has six touchdown passes, 644 yards passing and a 92.8 quarterback rating and has a new weapon with Hopkins joining Johnson, running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate and tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham. Ravens running Ray Rice will be a game-time decision for head coach John Harbaugh whose team averages just 2.8 yards per carry — only four teams in the NFL average fewer.
“We’re a little bit nicked up,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a challenge, but they’re stepping up. You don’t hear a word. They love to play, but it isn’t easy.”
Led by Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens are tied for fifth in the NFL with eight sacks, but the once-vaunted defense is still looking for its first interception. The Ravens have surrendered just 65 rushing yards per game and held then-Browns running back Trent Richardson to 3.2 yards per carry last week in their win over Cleveland.
Baltimore had won all six of meetings with Houston, including a 20-13 win in the playoffs two seasons ago, before the Texans crushed the Ravens 43-13 last year at Reliant Stadium. All storylines aside, expect all eyes will be on former Ravens safety Ed Reed as he is expected to make his debut with the Texans after having offseason hip surgery. Reed probably will be used more in a situational role, but look for him to garner plenty of attention in a defense that features the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and star linebacker Brian Cushing.
While the Texans could very easily be 0-2, expect them to improve to 3-0 with a close battle that could very easily come down to the leg of kicker Randy Bullock.