Even ugly win over Texans looks good

Ravens know you don't get style points in the NFL

October 16, 2011|Kevin Cowherd

Let's go with the obvious first: bye weeks agree with the Ravens.

They've now won nine of their last 10 games when coming off a bye. That's a winning percentage up there with, oh, the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals. And in home games after a bye, the Ravens are 7-0 dating to 2002.

Of course, let's admit this: that was a banged-up Houston Texans team the Ravens beat 29-14 Sunday.

No, I take that back. The Texans were more than just banged-up. They were severely depleted.

Sure, they played hard. But you don't lose All-World receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring) and not have major problems moving the ball. You don't lose monster defensive presence Mario Williams (torn pec muscle) and not have problems stopping the other team.

But that's what good teams like the Ravens do: they beat up on banged-up teams. This is the NFL. No one sends sympathy cards when a team loses its two best players.

OK, you want to call this an ugly win for the Ravens because of their problems in the red zone? Because Joe Flacco had a nice day passing (20-of-33 for 305 yards) but no touchdown passes? Because it took five field goals from Blly Cundiff to really put this team over the top?

Go ahead, be my guest. But that's what good teams do, too. They win any way they can. They win any way they have to. Ugly, pretty, doesn't matter. You don't get style points for a win in this league.

Good teams hang in there and grind it out with a workhorse back like Ray Rice (23 carries for 101 yards rushing, another 60 receiving).

They hang in there with a swarming, punishing defense that holds a great running back like the Texans' Arian Foster to 49 yards rushing on 15 carries.

And all they care about is what the scoreboard says when it's over.

"It was just one of those kinds of games," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It was just emotional from beginning to end. I hope everyone realized what a good win that is, and what a good (Houston) team that is."

Well, maybe when the Texans have all their weapons they can beat a team like the Ravens. But not Sunday. Not when this Ravens defense just keep getting better and better and holds an offense like Houston's — missing Johnson, sure, but still featuring a great back like Foster — to 293 total yards.

"The defense was pretty dominant throughout," Harbaugh said. "(The Texans) had the one drive where they hit two chunk plays on us ... But other than that I thought our defense played phenomenally well, especially against the run."

Here's another good thing about the Ravens win: there wasn't a near-brawl involving a Harbaugh when the two head coaches met to shake hands at the end of the game.

Maybe you heard what happened after the 49ers knocked the Lions from the ranks of the unbeaten Sunday: San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh got a little too enthusiastic with his handshake — at least according to Detroit coach Jim Schwartz.

Schwartz took exception to it. He had a few choice words for Harbaugh. Next thing you know, tempers are flaring, as they say. The coaches are being separated like its Manny Pacquio and Floyd Mayweather at weigh-in. And the Lions and 49er players look like they're ready to rumble, too.

But there was none of that nonsense when John Harbaugh and Gary Kubiak shook hands after the game. And when Harbaugh met the media after the game, he said he hadn't heard a thing about

"Someone went after Jim?" Harbaugh said with a smile. "Let's put it this way: I've been in fights with Jim before, too."

Which begged the obvious question: did he win any?

"I won some early when we were in our childood career," he said to laughter. "Then it got slanted the other way for a while. We got one coming up on Thanksgiving night, don't we?"

Yep, and it could be a dandy: Ravens and 49ers at M&T Bank Stadium. Two brothers coaching against each other for the first time in NFL history. Two teams with playoff aspirations. One, the Ravens, expected to be there. The other, the 49ers, the surprise, along with the Lions, in the NFC.

And maybe a home playoff berth on the line for the Ravens.

"First thing you want to do is make the playoffs," Harbaugh said. "Then you want to win your division. That's all down-the-road stuff. Then you want to win the conference. Then you want to win a championship."

Sure, it's down-the-road stuff. But it's not too early for the Ravens to think about what could be. They're 4-1 and off to a great start. They win pretty and they win ugly.

And right now they show nothing but promise.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 10.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show."

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