In DeMeco Ryans' head coaching debut, the Houston Texans fell 25-9 to the Baltimore Ravens on the road but showed plenty of promise in the 2023 season opener.
"Everything, the command, the flow of the game, I think everything went went fairly smoothly with our flow of the game," Ryans said. "And it's just one game at a time. I told our guys this is no point to hang our head or be sad about it. Like you got to make plays to win in this league and it's tough to make plays, but we don't hang our head about it. We don't whine about it. What are we learning from this outing that we had today? It was not good enough and everybody knows that. So how do we do something about it to make the change?"
Rookie QB C.J. Stroud showed promise despite the loss, completing 27-of-43 for 230 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also rushed for 20 yards on four carries behind a banged-up and reshuffled offensive line. Nico Collins led the team with 80 yards receiving on six catches. Rookie WR Tank Dell caught three passes for 34 yards (11.3 average) and veteran Robert Woods emerged a favorite third-down target for Stroud.
"For C.J.'s first time out, it was a tough place to play, a tough opponent," Ryans said. "A lot of things were stacked up against him, but I thought he handled himself well."
Will Anderson Jr. secured his first career NFL sack, bringing down Ravens QB Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter, and recorded six tackles (four solo), one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. As a unit, Houston's defense forced two turnovers, 3.0 sacks, seven quarterback hits and five tackles for loss. LB Denzel Perryman had a team high 11 tackles (six solo) with one tackle for loss. Jonathan Greenard had one sack, two TFLs, one quarterback hit and five tackles (four solo). Jackson completed 17-of-22 passes for 169 yards, no touchdowns and one interception while rushing for 38 yards on six attempts.
Injuries continued to mount for Houston, already without starting safety and team captain Jimmie Ward. Jalen Pitre (chest) left the game and did not play in the second half. RT George Fant, who stepped in for Tytus Howard, left late in the game and was replaced by Michael Deiter. DT Hassan Ridgeway also left the game with a calf injury.
Houston's defense started the game with two big drives. Greenard sacked QB Lamar Jackson to force a three-and-out. On the Ravens second possession, CB Steven Nelson picked off Jackson for the Texans first interception of the season.
The Ravens took an early 7-0 lead after J.K. Dobbins rushed for a four-yard touchdown with one minute remaining in the first quarter. Jackson scrambled 10 yards and connected with Zay Flowers on a 21-yard pass on the nine-play, 58-yard scoring drive.
Fairbairn kicked a pair of field goals on consecutive drives to finish out the second quarter and the Texans trailed 7-6 at halftime.
The Ravens pulled away in the third quarter after a 15-0 scoring run. Dobbins left the game with an injury, and was replaced by RB Justice Hill who rushed for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion to give the Ravens a 22-6 lead.
"We went out there and executed our game plan; we didn't do it the entire game," DE Jerry Hughes said. "And so that's why they were able to get those touchdowns in the second half. But that's one thing that we try to focus on is the red zone. DeMeco did a great job. Him and (DC Matt) Burke are bringing that up all week. We got to execute especially in the second half. That was just the game right there."
M.J. Stewart, in for Pitre, recovered a fumble by Jackson following the snap. Fairbairn kicked a 36-yard field goal as the Texans capitalized on the short field following the takeaway.
The Ravens defense got its first takeaway in the fourth quarter with a strip sack by Ravens DL David Ojabo. Three plays later, Beckham's 29-yard catch gave the Ravens possession at the Houston nine-yard line. The Texans defense held Baltimore to a field goal after back-to-back TFLs by Tavierre Thomas and Greenard.
"We can clean up a few X's and O's and things like that," Greenard said. "It's part of growing pains. At the same time, nobody's hanging their head in here. We all understood. We played our asses off. We played hard as hell. So we're just going to keep taking that mentality into the next week and clean up our mistakes and hey, next week is Week 2."
Houston falls to 0-1 on the season and will return to NRG Stadium to host the (0-1) Indianapolis Colts in Week 2.