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Texans rout Ravens for best record in AFC


If you are what your record says you are, then the Texans are the best team in the AFC.

They certainly looked like it on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. The two teams were tied atop the conference at 5-1 heading into the game, but a banner day by the Texans' defense sparked a 43-13 blowout victory at Reliant Stadium. The Texans set a franchise record for points in a game and had their second-biggest margin of victory ever.

"We didn't turn the ball over, we played great defense, we held them under 200 yards, we moved the heck out of the ball all day," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "It was our type of football today."

The "Bulls on Parade" were in full effect on Sunday as the Texans wore their Battle Red jerseys with white pants. Wade Phillips' defense scored a touchdown and a safety and had four sacks, two interceptions and 11 passes defensed, including five by defensive linemen and linebackers. The Texans allowed 176 yards to a Ravens offense that was averaging 385 a game.

The Texans were coming off their worst showing of the season, a 42-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.

"Especially defensively, after last week, we wanted to come out and make a statement and show that we can play the kind of football we play," Phillips said. "I thought it was a great game for us."

The Texans gained 420 yards themselves and had the ball for 38:16, including 20:53 in a 29-3 first half. They did not turn the ball over for the third time this season.

The Texans fell behind 3-0 early on a 51-yard field goal by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker. They got off to a sluggish start offensively with only one first down and 25 yards on their first three series.

Outside linebacker Connor Barwin got Houston on the scoreboard by sacking Joe Flacco for a safety with 4:49 remaining in the first quarter. It was Barwin's first sack of the season and came one play after rookie outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus dropped Flacco for the first sack of his career.

"Scoring points on defense, especially the sack-safety is a big deal," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "To get Connor off the schneid, that was a huge deal, and it was a great way to start the game off."

Barwin's big play ignited a 29-0 Texans run to close out the first half. Wide receiver Kevin Walter caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Matt Schaub on the ensuing series to make it 9-3 at the end of the first quarter. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter on a pass tipped by Watt.

"It seemed that I was kind of playing that particular route soft last year," Joseph said. "I had a feeling that they were going to run that same route and made a jump on it."

With the score 16-3, Texans tight end Garrett Graham made a sensational one-handed catch for a 20-yard gain, leaping in the air to tip the ball to himself with his right hand. Had Graham not made the play, Ravens safety Ed Reed looked primed for an interception that could have drastically changed the course of the game.

Instead, Graham's catch led to a one-yard touchdown reception by tight end end Owen Daniels with 5:58 left in the second quarter. Shayne Graham made field goals of 33 and 29 yards to put the Texans ahead 29-3 at halftime.

Flacco's passer rating at halftime was 4.2. The Ravens had just 84 yards and four first downs in the half. After their first drive, they went three-and-out on four of their next six possessions. The other two ended in Barwin's safety and Joseph's interception. Flacco also was picked off by safety Glover Quin, who made a one-handed catch on a pass tipped by Mercilus in the second quarter.

Texans running back Arian Foster had two rushing touchdowns in the second half. The Ravens scored their only touchdown on a 15-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Tandon Doss early in the third quarter but never got closer than 19 points.

Defensive end Antonio Smith had sacks on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter, pushing the Ravens back from the 19-yard line to the 36. They settled for a 54-yard field goal.

"It felt awesome," said Smith, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday. "It was a long time coming. Me and Connor were wondering if we were ever going to get a sack again."

Outside linebacker Bryan Braman recovered a surprise onside kick, and the Texans drove 44 yards on six plays – all handoffs to Foster and Ben Tate – for Foster's second touchdown, the final score of the game.

The Texans head into their bye week with the best record in the AFC and the best record through seven games in team history. Their previous best start was 4-3, which they did three times in their first 10 seasons.

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