A season for the ages came to a screeching halt as the Texans fell hard at Baltimore 34-10.
The first half was a tight affair, with the Ravens putting together one touchdown drive and the Texans tying a 10-3 game with a punt return for a TD by Stephen Sims.
But the second half saw the Ravens ground, pound and throw their way to a multi-score lead, while their defense put the brakes on a Texans offense that's given us countless thrills this season.
This was not the way to go out. Losing this one in any way, shape or form would be painful. But watching the AFC's top seed take control was a tough pill to swallow.
At the half, there was much hope in the air. A missed field goal cost the Texans the lead. But the game remained within reach until the Ravens constructed a 93-yard drive for a two-score lead that they'd never see threatened.
C.J. Stroud and the Texans passing attack never really got off the ground. There were some spurts, like five catches by Nico Collins and some moments from Devin Singletary. But the Ravens' relentless pressure forced a lot of incompletions and ended a lot of drives.
If you had told me the Texans would lose by three scores, I would have said they must have turned the ball over. But they didn't. And they scored on special teams, usually a solid indicator of winning potential. But the Ravens are that good.
The same team that throttled San Francisco and put up over 50 points at Miami showed up and showed the Texans the way to the off season.
It's suddenly the 2024 campaign. The Texans will look to defend their AFC South title and somehow earn the right to play this kind of game at home.
The schedule is peppered with marquee matchups with the Ravens, Bears, Lions, Bills and Dolphins at NRG Stadium. And tilts at Green Bay, Minnesota, the Jets, Patriots, and Chiefs highlight the road schedule.
There's a truckload of cap space and Cleveland's first round pick to utilize as well, as the Texans look to improve the roster.
For now, we reflect, feel it, and appreciate the 2023 season. We'll never forget the moments – the dominant wins over Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. The last second victories at Cincinnati and Tennessee. The playoff-clincher at Indy. And the playoff victory over Cleveland.
It didn't end the way we want. It never does unless you win the Super Bowl. But the Texans will be back and better in 2024. And we can't wait.