The Baltimore Ravens picked up their second consecutive victory by holding off the Houston Texans in a 23-16 win on Nov. 27 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

The win improved the Ravens’ overall record to 6-5 and kept them in the hunt for an AFC Wild Card berth.

Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins, left, rushes past Houston Texans free safety Andre Hal for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 27, 2017, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Tom Savage Isn’t Very Good

Baltimore’s stout defensive unit was the star of the game, forcing three Texans turnovers, including two interceptions snatched by the Ravens secondary and a forced fumble on a strip sack by linebacker Terrell Suggs. But in all fairness, it’s not like the Ravens pulled that off against an elite quarterback like Tom Brady. 

Texans quarterback Tom Savage is a four-year veteran pocket passer who had just four career touchdowns with four career interceptions through four seasons before Monday night’s contest. He lost his starting job in Week One to rookie sensation Deshaun Watson, who was lighting the league up with stellar play before suffering a season-ending injury. Savage made it easier for the Ravens to dominate Houston defensively thanks to his poor decision-making. His second interception of the game came late in the fourth quarter when he forced a pass into double coverage.

Jimmy Smith Can’t Guard DeAndre Hopkins

This was the most interesting matchup heading into the game: Houston’s elite receiver DeAndre Hopkins versus Baltimore’s elite cornerback Jimmy Smith. Some even argued it was a matchup of the very best receiver and best cornerback in the NFL. Well, if Smith really is the NFL’s best cornerback, the rest of the league’s cornerbacks should be petrified—because Hopkins proved Monday night that Smith can’t guard him. Hopkins put on a show against Smith, catching seven passes for 125 yards. Hopkins even pulled in a few circus-like catches despite Smith pulling and ripping all over his jersey, resulting in several defensive holding and pass interference penalties. 

It was a humbling experience for Smith, who has played extremely well this season. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of just 25.7 when targeting receivers covered by Smith through the first 10 games of the year. Smith still hasn’t allowed a touchdown pass to be caught on him all season, including Monday night’s bout with Hopkins. But it’s safe to say he still lost that battle. 

Anybody Still Blaming Flacco For the Ravens’ Offensive Struggles Isn’t Actually Watching Them Play

You can look up Joe Flacco’s individual stats this season, see the lack of production in the numbers and automatically assume the man stinks. Or you can watch the actual games and see the real issue hurting the team’s production: the offensive line. 

Other than left tackle Ronnie Stanley, the Ravens’ O-line is really, really bad. They can’t hold a block on a pass play longer than half of a second, and it’s affecting how the coaching staff calls passing plays. Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can’t dial up many deep-ball throws because the O-line can’t hold up defenders long enough for the receivers to get down field. To compensate for their shortfalls, Mornhinweg has called a bunch of passing plays that feature shallow routes underneath coverage so that Flacco can get the ball out of his hands fast. The problem with that strategy is that those shallow routes are vanilla and easy for most NFL defensive units to read and stop, ultimately resulting in poor offensive production. 

Until the line improves, don’t expect the offense to improve. Battles are won in the trenches. It may be a cliché, but it really is that simple. 

Next: The Ravens defense will get a real test on Sunday, Dec. 3, when it faces Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Stafford and the Detroit Lions in Baltimore. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. 


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor