The Texans have been on the business end of some grueling, frustrating losses in 2017 but the loss to Baltimore will sting for a while. Why? A W was served up right up on a platter and was there for the taking, but a few key moments that turned the tide of this game. When the Texans coaches and players sit down to watch the film, they'll all realize that very thing, if they didn't when they got on the bus after the game. Here are my observations from Monday night's 23-16 loss to the Ravens.
- The offense couldn't have had a better start to the game. It was the first time since the Seattle game last month that the Texans had scored in the first quarter. The opening drive touchdown was the first time Tom Savage had led the Texans to a score in the first quarter in his seven career starts. Now, they got some help from the Ravens' defense, picking up multiple penalties on the drive, but that didn't matter at all when Lamar Miller powered into the end zone to cap the 90-yard drive.
- I thought at that moment that this offense would have a solid night, but inconsistencies and mistakes, namely turnovers, kept the Texans out of the end zone for the rest of the night.
- That's the most maddening aspect of this loss: this game was right there to be won. The Texans offense picked up chunks of yards and moved the ball, at times, as it did in the win over the Cardinals. But, it shot itself in the foot at key times as well. Savage and company had the ball at the four yard line before the end of half, but couldn't find the end zone, settling for a field goal. In the second half, they moved the ball all the way down to the seven, but a holding penalty put them in a hole, forcing another field goal. Red zone offense produced one touchdown and three field goals. In a game in which the offense didn't turn it over, that might have been enough to win. In a game in which the punt team gave up a key fake punt conversion and the offense turned it over three times, it was seven points short.
- DeAndre Hopkins was outstanding. From about the third or fourth play of the game, his jersey was a tattered mess after Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr grabbed hold of his #10 jersey. That holding penalty wasn't called, but it was clear how the Ravens planned on slowing down Hopkins...or tried to slow down Hopkins. Carr and fellow corner Jimmy Smith earned flags for defensive pass interference and defensive holding throughout the night. Ironically, the play in which Hopkins jersey was first ripped, Carr held as vociferously as he had all night but it wasn't called. I saw someone tweet out that Hopkins was on a one-man mission to bump Smith from a certain Pro Bowl appearance. I told Hopkins a few weeks ago that one of my real joys in this job is watching him go to work each and every week and Monday night was one of those special nights.
- When he came off the field after that first touchdown, he showed me his jersey and I just said it was going to be that kind of night. That's not a night that's going to slow Hopkins in the slightest. In fact, I think he flourishes in a more physical atmosphere. If you combine yards and penalty yards generated, Hopkins would certainly have gone over 200 yards yet again.
- With the emergence of Bruce Ellington in the offense, Braxton Miller hasn't flourished as many wanted or expected in his second year as a Texan. However, he was a true threat on Monday night working the middle of the field for five catches on six targets for 43 yards. With five more games remaining on the schedule, Miller must continue to give this offense that sort of output.
- I'm convinced that Ravens pass rush legend Terrell Suggs was playing possum all night setting up one big time rush. He got his first sack of the night when Alfred Blue and Jeff Allen ran into each other attempting to get out to block Suggs. The rest of the night, he was really a non-factor. I remember thinking in the fourth quarter that it's been a while since Suggs had put any pressure on Savage. Then, in crunch time, the 35 year old found the secret sauce, if you will. It really gave credit to my crazy theory - that he had been waiting for his moment to strike the entire second half. He did and it nearly ended the game on the spot.
- Savage took a beating in the pocket throughout the night and I can't imagine the pain/soreness he'll feel Tuesday morning. Yet, for him, that pain is nothing compared to not getting that W. When the O-Line protected him, he was stellar, racking up over a 100 passer rating. Man, he made some beautiful throws but then he had a few he'd like to have back, a couple of head scratchers.
- I think Savage's best throw was the one to C.J. Fiedorowicz down the seam on the first drive of the third quarter; that toss was a gem. However, Fiedorowicz stumbled as he attempted to reel in the pass and couldn't make the catch near midfield. If he had held on, the Texans would've had the ball near midfield early in the third with some much needed momentum on their side. Later in the second half, Savage dropped a glorious dime on DeAndre Hopkins down the Texans sideline, which set up a Kaimi Fairbairn field goal. Unfortunately, it's just an inconsistency thing that continues to erode Savage's overall performances.
- The run game didn't help much, either, registering only 66 yards on 25 carries. Even though the Ravens defense was in the bottom ten of the NFL in stopping the run, since they've gotten defensive tackle Brandon Williams back in the fold, it's been lights out for most offenses on the ground.
- With a national television audience watching his every move, Jadeveon Clowney was again brilliant. He made a play from just about every single alignment possible for a front seven player. He nearly decapitated Ravens tight end Maxx Williams on what looked like a split zone run. He ran through not one but two different offensive linemen for his sack of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. I love how defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel found ways to free Clowney up to make big plays. That said, let's not get it twisted, JD created (and continues to create) plays and turned up the dominator meter ten fold on Monday night.
- Defensive tackles Brandon Dunn and D.J. Reader are playing some really good football. Those two are tying up a multitude of blockers at the point and even making tackles on their own.
- Reader's hit on Alex Collins when Collins tried to reverse field, looking to find room to make the first down, was a WOOOO lick. The big fella caught Collins something nasty.
- The fake punt call by former special teams coach John Harbaugh was the ignition switch for the Ravens, unfortunately. The throw from Sam Koch was the longest completion of the night (that's how well the Texans secondary played in this one) and the timing of the call, the execution...it was perfect and it gave that entire 46-man roster a swift kick in the behind.
- Cornerback Kevin Johnson had to find 70 tickets for his family and friends to see him in his homecoming, so to speak. He told me after the game that he and his family were season ticket holders and had been in that stadium plenty as a fan. As a player for the first time, he was outstanding. When he has the opportunity to play consecutive games and be healthy, he's tough as nails in all facets.
- I mentioned DeAndre Hopkins jersey earlier and there was a funny moment (not really at the time). The Ravens held Hopkins all night; there's no secret there at all. So, after a pass thrown DeAndre's way in the third quarter, Hopkins turned to the official and didn't say a word. Just stood there. Honestly, he didn't really have to say anything to make his point because his jersey was all jacked up on his right arm. He looked straight ahead toward the back judge without pointing to the jersey or making a demonstrative move to highlight a holding call the official may have missed. Sensing that Hopkins was making a statement, Ravens safety Tony Jefferson ran over and pulled Hop's sleeve down back over his shoulder pads. Up in the booth, Marc and Andre noted the sportsmanship shown by Jefferson, but it was more gamesmanship to make sure the official didn't get an extended look at a call that he should've made and could make it up to Hop later.
- That was my first trip to Baltimore and man, I've got to say, what a beautiful area! Being in the AFC, there's no telling when another trip to Baltimore will be on the schedule but if there is one anytime soon, rock on! I could see that being a wonderful weekend excursion for Texans fans in the future.
I'm sure there's some more left on the cutting room floor but it's about 6 in the morning, I haven't slept for 24 hours and the more I think about this one, the more frustrated I get. We'll see y'all next week in Nashville for the Texans second visit with the Titans.
The Texans and Ravens tangled on Monday Night Football in Baltimore.