Win wasn't pretty, but Ravens will take it

January 15, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first.

You say this was an ugly win? The Ravens don't care. They'll take it. No one gets style points when the NFL playoffs roll around. This wasn't a beauty pageant. It was more like "Survivor: M&T Bank Stadium."

You say there's no way the Ravens can beat the Patriots next week in the AFC Championship if they play the way they did in this 20-13 divisional-round win over the Houston Texans?

Sorry, it doesn't work that way, say the Ravens. Every game is different. What you do in one game doesn't necessarily carry over to the next. It's more like the stock market. Previous results don't necessarily guarantee future earnings.

Maybe Ed Reed summed it up best when this one was over Sunday, when he limped off the field with a sore back and a bad ankle, but a smile on his face.

Someone asked the eight-time Pro Bowl safety whether he felt more of a sense of relief than of joy after a win in which the Ravens offense was basically shut down in the second half and a young, inexperienced quarterback named T.J. Yates kept the Texans in the game until the very end.

"I wouldn't say that because it's the playoffs," Reed said, rightly. "It's winning by any means necessary. That's what it's got to be. It's got to be a team effort. And that's what it was today against a great football team."

"I think it was a Ravens-type victory," said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, another Pro Bowler who had one of his quieter games. "I always say this: 'There's a right way to do things, there's a wrong way to do things, and then there's the Ravens way to do things.

"It wasn't really pretty. But, hey, we're not really a pretty team. We got the 'W' and on to the AFC Championship."

Before we get into next week's game, a few observations about this war with the Texans:

I was one of those who thought T.J. Yates would fall apart. A playoff game, on the road, against a Ravens defense that normally chews up rookie quarterbacks? I figured Yates would crack like a three-minute egg.

Didn't happen. For the most part, he played with poise and confidence in completing 17-of-35 passes, even with those three picks.

True, the Texans didn't ask too much of him. They kept their offensive game plan simple. And there were times when Yates seemed locked in on Houston's great wide-out, Andre Johnson, not even bothering to see if anyone else was open.

But on a day when the temperature was 31 degrees and the winds were swirling and the noise was deafening inside the Bank, the kid kept his team in the game for 60 minutes against the No. 3 defense in the league.

Sure, you can dog the Ravens for failing to sack him even once. And for only hitting him twice. But Yates didn't crumble. He has nothing to be ashamed of after this one.

On the other hand, the Ravens offense definitely struggled. Flacco had a nice game: 14-for-27 for 176 yards and two touchdowns. He had two sweet passes to Anquan Boldin, in particular, including a 10-yarder in the right corner of the end zone that gave the Ravens a 17-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

But the offense got nothing going after that, except for Billy Cundiff's 44-yard field goal near the end of the game. And Houston held Ray Rice in check – 60 yards on 21 carries and four catches for 20 yards.

When Flacco was asked why the offense had so much trouble moving the ball after the first quarter, he shook his head softly.

"They did a good job stopping the run," he said of the Texans. "They put pressure on me. . . . We probably need to clean up some things on offense. So when we look at the film . . . we'll see what we need to do."

Yeah, that won't be a real fun time today when the offense troops into the film room to look at this one. But after that, the Ravens will forget this one in a hurry. That's what you have to do in the NFL. Especially in the playoffs.

Selective amnesia is one of the best coping mechanisms you can have.

So now it's on to New England, where the Ravens will face the offensive buzz-saw that is Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and the rest of the Patriots.

Sure, the Patriots looked like the best team on the planet in that 45-10 rout of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos on Saturday night. That's the snapshot that's in everyone's mind right now.

Doesn't mean the Patriots can do that against the Ravens. Again, it'll be a different game up in Foxborough next Sunday.

Different game for the Ravens. Different game for the Patriots too.

Should be a good one to see, too.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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