Control, explode, control: How the Ravens can top the Houston Texans
To defeat the Houston Texans this week, the Baltimore Ravens must control the deep passing game and keep hold of the ball offensively.
No, last year’s game against the Texans doesn’t matter. The NFL does not let them carry over unnecessary points like salary cap dollars, so wipe last year’s game from your memory banks. This will be about the 2020 Baltimore Ravens taking on the 2020 Houston Texans, and that’s all we can consider when looking at this match-up.
Also, keep in mind that game-changing players can absolutely alter a game at any time and take it over. JJ Watt has the potential to go off for four sacks, two forced fumbles, and a recovery. That is not impossible. And Deshaun Watson can throw for 400-yards and five touchdowns on any given Sunday. Also not impossible.
But I think the Ravens can, and will, win this game. And I think there is a formula to follow to do just that. Because I’m an attention-seeking missile and I want to be able to lay claim to a winning phrase, let’s go with this one for the Ravens-Texans matchup: Control. Explode. Control.
I’ll tell you what I mean.
Look at what the Texans have on offense and it becomes very clear, very quickly. They have speed at the receiver position and a quarterback who can make big plays. Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, Randall Cobb and company can flat-out get downfield, and Watson is patient with letting plays develop in front of him — sometimes too patient, in terms of letting pass-rushers get home.
The Ravens have good corners. Let’s be honest: The Ravens have great corners. But it only takes one false step, or one great move, for a downfield receiver to cause a serious problem, and the Texans are full of them. The corners have to do a good job of getting hands-on these guys early to disrupt their routes and irritate Watson’s timing, but safeties Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott also need to do a good job of maintaining discipline in their roles and providing support.
Go after Watson. Blitz, blitz, blitz, as the Ravens love to do. But keep someone in deep support throughout the game or risk giving up some game-changing plays.
Just as the Ravens defense should be wary of giving up explosive plays, so should the Texans defense be nervous about the Ravens. Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, and, yes, Mark Andrews can all eat up some yards in a hurry. A big-play is a “free” seven points, and seven points can often come in very handy in an NFL game.
Of course, explosions don’t have to only come from the offense. The Ravens have several players on defense who can get their hands on a ball and take it the other way (I’m looking at you in particular, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Tavon Young), and if the Ravens can maintain the edges and keep Watson bouncing around in the pocket, a strip-sack is never out of the question.
Not to be outdone is the special-teams factor. The Ravens had a rare “off” season in 2019 in regards to having explosive plays on special teams, but Duvernay and fellow rookie James Proche gave us a tease that they might be ready to steal some points for the team at any given time.
Two explosive plays throughout the game could be the difference between winning and being tied in the division with the Browns.
We talked about the need to control the Texans offense, but let’s also talk about how important it will be for the Ravens to maintain control of the football while on offense.
At their core, the Ravens are a running team. It’s been proven that Lamar Jackson can — contrary to some opinions in the dark recesses of Twitter — effectively throw the football. But a lot of what they do is built on the threat of the run game, as well as the efficiency and brutality of the run game, itself.
If the Ravens can keep the Texans from generating big plays, can steal a few big plays themselves, and keep control of the ball with efficient, turnover-free long drives, they can not lose this game. Score touchdowns on multiple 10-plus play drives, don’t give the Texans any free field position with turnovers, and hit on a few 40-plus-yard plays Sunday?
Game. Set. Match. Ravens go to 2-0. And Twitter is fun for another week.