Through two games in 2013, Houston's defense has prevented a first down on 16 of their last 20 drives, landed 12 quarterback hits, and six sacks for a loss of 31 yards.
When the two teams last faced each other in October 2012, the Texans won 43-13 at Reliant Stadium without Brian Cushing. This time the Texans defense will have their starting inside linebacker on the field at M&T Stadium alongside J.J. Watt. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is impressed with what the leaders on defense have shown this season.
"Brian's a force in the middle, run and pass, and pass coverage and pass rush," Harbaugh said. "He had the interception for the touchdown to kind of cap things off. But when he blitzes and he brings it up the middle and he adds on the blitzes, he's a force to be reckoned with. He's just such a powerful, strong, explosive guy. Then, in the run game, he's kind of tackle-to-tackle and really sideline-to-sideline, but he plays off of (DE) J.J. (Watt) so well in what they in terms of the gap control and the different things they do to change things up schematically. They just really fit well together."
Cushing, who has 24 tackles, two sacks and one pick-six on the season, appreciates the recognition but says he has a lot more to accomplish.
"It means a lot," Cushing said. "Like we were talking, you play for the respect of your peers, but what I liked about what he said is he talked about the pass and the run. I think I'm a very athletic linebacker that can kind of do pretty much anything and I take a lot of pride in that. I want to know that Coach sees that. That feels good. It feels good but I just have to have a good game against him to prove him right."
According to NFL play-by-plays, Watt was officially part of 95 plays that resulted in zero or negative yards in 2012. Against the Ravens last season, he recorded two tackles, one quarterback hurry, and two passes defensed. To account for the interference Watt creates in passing lanes, coaches have been forced to prepare for him. The Ravens are no exception.
"Oh, gosh yeah," Harbaugh said of Watt's impact on the game. "You really can't believe it until you see it. I don't think we really had a great understanding of it last year until we experienced it, what a force he is. Yeah, I can tell that they (Texans) do a great job coaching. The rush isn't it, it's the whole defense, it's not just the D-line, but when they get blocked, they all get hands up and they try to find the quarterback's eyes and intentions, and try to get a hand up in the passing lane. He just happens to probably be the best at it because he's just so big and athletic."
Harbaugh could also see a familiar face on defense Sunday. As for the possibility Ed Reed on the opposite side of the field, Harbaugh said it would be emotional seeing his former player.
Obviously, we're good friends, have been through a lot together, all of us, personally," Harbaugh said. "It'll be mixed emotions I would say."