Ravens Down Texans, Suffer Key Injuries
The Baltimore Ravens came away with a 25-9 defeat of the Houston Texans on Sunday in front of the Baltimore faithful on opening weekend of the 2023 NFL season. The Ravens in dominate fashion never surrendered the lead at any point on Sunday as they made it a long Sunday for the young and rebuilding Houston Texans.
While the anticipation coming into Sunday was focused on the Ravens offense, the Ravens defense was what impressed the most as they got after Texans rookie quarterback CJ Stroud. Stroud was held to 242 yards on 28-of-44 passing, but was under duress all day as he was sacked five times and hit a total of 10 times, three of which came from Ravens outside linebacker Odafe Oweh. Second-year outside linebacker David Ojabo in his first full season recorded his second career strip fumble of Stroud midway through the fourth quarter to help seal the Ravens victory. The Ravens defense held the Texans to just nine points giving up only three Ka’imi Fairbairn field goals while holding Houston to just 72 yards rushing.
The Ravens defense looked like one of the best units in the NFL, while the Ravens offense on the other hand did not through the first two quarters. On the Ravens first two possessions Lamar Jackson was sacked to force a three and out and that was followed up by a Jackson interception in Houston territory on the next Ravens offensive possession. It would take until one minute to go in the first quarter for the Ravens to find the end zone on a J.K. Dobbins four-yard run as he dove into the end zone for the score.
The Ravens would find the end zone two more times on the day as Justice Hill filling in for the injured J.K. Dobbins found the end zone both times from two-yards out in the third quarter. Rookie Zay Flowers shined in his NFL debut leading the way with nine receptions for 78-yards, while also dazzling with his shiftiness and playmaking ability. Odell Beckham Jr. like the Ravens offense also had a strong second half finishing with two catches for 37 yards which included a sensational over the shoulder grab midway through the fourth quarter that would help set up a Justin Tucker field goal. Beckham Jr. may not have gotten the receptions he is used to, but he was still very effective even without the ball ball in his hand as he drew a pass interference penalty down the sideline to set up Justice Hills second touchdown and did draw several double teams throughout the day which.
The Ravens played very few starters during the preseason, something head coach John Harbaugh said he would reconsider moving forward. But by doing so the Ravens came out of August relatively healthy with no serious injuries, but the injury bug has found the Ravens once again with the season ending injury to running back J.K. Dobbins and possible season ending shoulder/pectoral injury to safety Marcus Williams. Early reports indicate that center Tyler Linderbaum and left tackle Ronnie Stanley both avoided serious injury but both are scheduled for MRIs this week.
While injuries are tough especially to key players on any team, the Ravens have a lot to clean up in terms of penalties, the defensive secondary, and coming out faster on offense. Its only week one and adjustments between offensive coordinator Todd Monken and the rest of the Ravens offense is still taking place. However, the Ravens need to come out looking much better then they did against the Texans moving forward. Jackson passed for just 169 yards while adding 38 yards on the ground, but the inability to move the ball consistently throughout the first half coupled with turnovers and sacks is a recipe for disaster against other elite teams and must be something Lamar Jackson and Todd Monken correct moving forward.
The Ravens secondary while efficient was largely assisted by the pressure put on by the Ravens front seven. Without All-Pro Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Stephens and Ronald Darby got the start and both struggled at times to stick with Texans receivers. Texas receiver Nico Collins who predominantly was lined up against Darby finished Sunday with six catches for 80 yards. Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin only played eight defensive snaps as he continues to work back from injury that kept him out most of training camp.
The Ravens now turn their focus to their division rival the Cincinnati Bengals, as the Ravens will hit the road for the first time this season as they look to keep the momentum rolling next Sunday.
Ronnie Stanley (Knee)- MRI Scheduled
Tyler Linderbaum (Ankle)- MRI Scheduled
Marcus Williams (Shoulder/Pectoral)- MRI Scheduled
Roquan Smith had a team high 12 solo tackles.
The Ravens had a total of 13 penalties for 106 yards.
The Ravens recorded five sacks on Sunday their most since they also had five sack against the Cleveland Browns in week seven of the 2022 season.
Justice Hill ran for his third and fourth career rushing touchdowns.
Zay Flower’s nine receptions were the most ever by a Ravens rookie in their debut.