Ravens report card vs. Texans

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
10:25
AM ET
Grading the Baltimore Ravens in their 30-9 win over the Houston Texans:

Quarterback: It was another sluggish start for Joe Flacco, who seemed to be off the mark early. He was either leading his receivers too much to the inside or throwing high. Flacco looked better in the second half, completing 4 of 5 passes on third downs for 84 yards. His best pass was hitting Torrey Smith in stride on a 48-yard strike. The Ravens don't have a strong supporting cast around Flacco right now, but he needs more of a complete effort going forward. Grade: C-plus.

Running backs: With Ray Rice out of the lineup for the first time since 2008, backup Bernard Pierce wasn't impressive in his first NFL start. He's known for taking one cut and going upfield. But Pierce was indecisive and used a lot of stutter steps at the line. Even though there wasn't much running room, Pierce is a physical back who needs to plow ahead. He averaged 2.7 yards per carry. The one positive was Pierce scoring a touchdown for the second straight week. Grade: C-minus.

Wide receivers/tight ends: Torrey Smith jumpstarted the offense in the second half with a 48-yard catch on third down. It's taken a while for Flacco to connect with Smith deep. He converted another third down with a 24-yard reception on a drag route. Dallas Clark showed that tight ends are still in the game plan, making four receptions for 46 yards. The other wide receivers -- Marlon Brown and Brandon Stokley -- combined for 15 yards, and tight end Ed Dickson went a second straight game without a catch. Tight end Billy Bajema missed a block that stopped the Ravens from converting on third-and-1. Grade: B-minus.

Offensive line: This has been the biggest disappointment of the season for the Ravens. The line once again didn't open holes for the run game and allowed too much pressure on Flacco. What downgraded the line more this week was the penalties. The left side of the line was flagged three times for 40 yards. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie was called for hitting the facemask twice, and left guard Kelechi Osemele had a holding penalty. Grade: C-minus.

Defensive line: On just the numbers alone, it was a great day for the defensive front. The Ravens held the Texans' two-punch attack of Arian Foster and Ben Tate in check. The Texans averaged 4.1 yards per carry and didn't break a run longer than 10 yards. Then factor in that the Ravens did this with just four healthy linemen -- Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones, Marcus Spears and DeAngelo Tyson -- after Terrence Cody (knee) was injured. This unit didn't wear down. Grade: A.

Linebackers: Daryl Smith made the play of the game when he returned the interception 37 yards for a touchdown. It highlighted his great awareness and anticipation. Smith also led the Ravens in tackles with 10. Terrell Suggs had a sack for a third straight game, and Elvis Dumervil would have done the same if not for right tackle Derek Newton grabbing him by his neck on one play. I continue to be impressed by the progression of Courtney Upshaw, who is starting to stand out more in games. Grade: A-minus.

Secondary: Best performance of the year for the most criticized area on defense. Safety James Ihedigbo has been the biggest surprise on the Ravens. He was everywhere, stopping a drive in the red zone and on fourth down with deflections. You always expect a physical performance from Lardarius Webb, but Jimmy Smith was just as aggressive in making plays on the ball. Grade: A.

Special teams: Tandon Doss has more urgency since coming back to the Ravens and delivered with an 82-yard punt return. It was a great individual performance because he beat three tacklers and then showed amazing balance tiptoeing down the sideline before reaching the end zone. Justin Tucker rebounded from a couple of misses to hit from 28, 45 and 43 yards. The only negative was the penalties. The Ravens were caught with too many men on the field on a field-goal attempt, which gave the Texans a first down, and rookie Brynden Trawick continues to make bone-headed mistakes with a personal foul. Grade: B-plus.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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