Friday, January 13, 2012
Final Word: Texans at Ravens
By Jamison Hensley
Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Texans-Ravens divisional playoff game:
The Ravens' run game thrives behind fullback Vonta Leach, left, while playing at home suits Joe Flacco.
Flacco enjoys home cooking: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has taken some heat for his postseason numbers (four touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 61.6 passer rating). But every one of his playoff starts has come on the road, a challenging streak that ends Sunday when the Ravens host the Texans. Flacco has been nearly unstoppable --as well as almost unbeatable -- at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. He has won 18 of his last 19 home starts, throwing 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions. When he faced the Texans in Baltimore three months ago, Flacco threw for 305 yards, which was his third-highest total of the season. He also scored his only rushing touchdown of the season against Houston.
No playoff runs against Baltimore: There's no mystery surrounding the Texans' game plan on offense, especially with rookie third-string quarterback T.J. Yates starting his seventh career NFL game. Houston leads the NFL in rushing attempts (34.1 per game) and in time of possession (32:41). But there's no team better at shutting down the run in the playoffs than the Ravens. Baltimore limits teams to 81.9 yards rushing per game and 3.1 yards per carry -- both of which are the best in NFL postseason history. Texans running back Arian Foster is looking for his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game against a Ravens defense that hasn't allowed a running back to go over 100 yards in 15 consecutive games (third-best current streak).
From friend to foe: The Ravens are at their best running the ball behind All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach, who is quite familiar with the Houston defense. Leach played 75 games for the Texans from 2006-10 and paved the way for Foster to win the NFL rushing title last season. His impact on the Ravens' ground game has been just as significant. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Ravens average 91.4 yards rushing and 4.5 yards per carry on runs when Leach is the lead blocker. Baltimore has also scored 14 touchdowns running behind Leach. Establishing the run has been crucial for the Ravens, who are 12-0 this season when running the ball at least 20 times.