As the Houston Texans have climbed the ladder of respectability, the franchise has seen two big hurdles to clear. They have yet to solve that New England puzzle, but the Baltimore narrative has seen the tide turn.
The 2010 overtime game was one that opened some people's eyes to the Houston football franchise. The 2011 game was looked upon with anticipation, because that was THE year, but the Ravens pulled away late. The Ravens scraped by again in the divisional round of the playoffs, which led to 2012's grudge match. Last year, the Texans plastered the Ravens. However, instead of the victory proclaiming Houston's arrival, Baltimore would build off their season's lowest point and end the year as champions.
This year's game isn't as anticipated, due to Houston winning big last season and the Ravens getting smeared by Denver, yet it's an important week for both teams. Baltimore would like to avoid falling to 1-2, while the Texans would like to pick up a third win before doing the Seattle-San Francisco two-step. There's a lot of uncertainty regarding this Sunday's game in Baltimore.
Will Ray Rice play? Will Andre Johnson play? Will Coach Ed Reed strap on a helmet? Who will take Jacoby Jones' spot in Baltimore? Will Duane Brown be effective? Will Brett get a chance to drool over his draft-crush, Arthur Brown?
Between the early season and laundry list of injuries to key players, it's somewhat difficult to put together a blueprint to follow for a Houston victory. However, there is an obvious way Houston can leave Baltimore with a "W."
Hit Joe Flacco. Hit him early. Hit him often. Get him off his spot. Get to him before he has a chance to do what he does best, which is throw a beautiful deep ball. If the front seven lets Flacco get comfortable, Houston's in for a long day.
That's easier said than done, as the outside linebackers, generally a focal point in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense, have a grand total of one sack and two quarterback hits in 65 dropbacks. For the record, all of those are from Whitney Mercilus. In fact, the only other front seven members who have made any noise in rushing the passer would be Brian Cushing (duh), J.J. Watt (what a surprise), and Antonio Smith, who missed the first game. I'm sure the secondary would appreciate some more pass rush to make their jobs easier.
It's simple. If the Texans want to win on Sunday, flustering Joe Flacco, and preventing him from finding Torrey Smith, has to be the top priority. After all, he's a $120 million man.
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