December 15, 2002
Texans Come Up Short
by Ric Sweeney
In three previous games following victories, the Texans have outscored, 81-9. They were still outscored Sunday, but they played well, losing to the playoff-chasing Baltimore Ravens, 23-19, to drop their record to 4-10 on the season.
Things got off to a bumpy start for Houston’s offense, which was trying to rebound from their 47-yard effort last week against Pittsburgh. RB Jonathan Wells fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and after retaining possession, QB David Carr was sacked on the next play. It would mark Well’s only glaring mistake of the day and, believe it or not, Carr’s only sack until the fourth quarter.
After exchanging punts, Carr was intercepted by Ed Reed, who returned the pick 12 yards to the Texan 20. Three plays later, Matt Stover kicked a 22-yard field goal, and the Ravens led, 3-0.
Houston responded in a big way, officially shaking the dark cloud from last week’s performance. After Avion Black muffed the ensuing kickoff, the Texans were stuck at their own 9. Wells and James Allen gave Carr some much-needed breathing room, rushing three times for 24 yards before Carr hit Corey Bradford for 9. On third-and-3 from their own 47, Carr hit TE Billy Miller for 10 to keep the drive alive. The two would hook up again for 12 more yards before Carr found Houston’s other tight end, Jabari Holloway, who rambled 24 yards to the Ravens’ 1. Wells finished off the drive on the next play and with 13:37 left in the half, Houston led, 7-3.
Not only did the 91-yard drive nearly double Houston’s output against the Steelers, it also marked their first offensive touchdown since the third quarter of their November 24th game against the Giants.
But Jeff Blake led Baltimore back, completing 4-of-5 passes, helping to set up a 22-yard Stover field goal, as the Ravens moved within 1, 7-6, with 8:36 left in the half. Just over six minutes later, Baltimore seized their first lead, again led by Blake, who hit Travis Taylor for 30 yards on third-and-6 before finding him again from 26 yards out to give Baltimore the halftime lead, 13-7. Houston did move into Baltimore territory as the quarter ran down, but two penalties — a hold on Chester Pitts (which wiped out a 19-yard pass to JuJuan Dawson) and a tripping call stalled the drive.
Blake came out firing in the second half as he hit all four passes and scrambled for 17 yards, eventually finding rookie Chester Taylor from 11 yards out to increase Baltimore’s lead, 20-7 with 3:40 left in the third quarter.
Both defenses forced punts after the Taylor score, and Houston took advantage. Black, subbing for the injured Jermaine Lewis, found a seam in the Raven coverage and shot through it, racing 76 yards for the score with :24 left in the third quarter. And just like that, Houston was back in the game, 20-14.
The defense stopped Baltimore again, but a third down pass to Bradford was dropped and Houston was forced to punt, too, unable to capitalize on the momentum shift. And then Blake got on another roll, hitting Taylor for 14 yards on third-and-12 and then Terry Jones for 27 on the next play. Jamal Lewis also helped move the chains, rushing 4 times for 16 yards on the drive. But Baltimore had to settle for a 47-yard field goal, increasing their lead nine, 23-14.
To their credit, Houston stayed in the game. Carr hit Miller on a pretty pass-and-catch on third-and-6 and then hit Miller again for 14 yards. He also hit Dawson for 19 yards on third-and-8. But a sack and another Bradford drop led to Houston having to settle for a 41-yard field goal from Kris Brown, and with 3:01 to play, Houston trailed, 23-17.
It looked like things were done when, from their 12, Blake hit TE Todd Heap for 16 yards on third-and-8, but offsetting penalties negated the play and Blake’s second third down attempt fell incomplete. Backed into their own end zone, Baltimore took the safety, 23-19, with 2:28 left. Houston’s offense had the two-minute warning plus a timeout remaining when they took the field at their own 32.
But Carr’s third down pass hit Bradford in the facemask and Chad Williams intercepted the deflection, though replays showed the ball hit the ground. The ruling ended Houston’s comeback efforts with 2:03 left in the game.
The Offensive Line Hats off to Houston’s much-maligned unit, who opened holes for Wells and Allen and gave Carr some of his best protection of the year. And the offense responded, generating 277 yards on the day.
Billy Miller There’s no question, Miller is now Carr’s go-to-guy. He continues to make tough catches, runs well after the catch and seems to have a knack for getting open. Proof of what a weapon he’s become: Baltimore double-teamed him in the fourth quarter. Also of note, JuJuan Dawson had a good game, including a terrific snare in the fourth quarter.
Avion Black He more than made up for three early flubs with a pretty 76-yard punt return, displaying a tremendous amount of speed and great field vision. Hopefully, Sunday was a sneak preview of what’s to come.
Kick Coverage Lamont Brightful averaged 32 yards on three returns, including a 53-yarder that helped Baltimore quickly respond to Houston’s second quarter touchdown.
The Defense They weren’t bad, but this team needs them to play better than they did on Sunday if they want to win. No turnovers and they failed to pressure Blake, who made big play after big play when his team needed it most. Most glaring was Baltimore’s 10-play drive early in the fourth quarter, in which they hit on two third downs, including a 3rd-and-12, leading to a game-clinching field goal.
Corey Bradford Bradford dropped two third down passes and it was his facemask that Carr drilled late in the game, leading to the interception which iced it for Baltimore. Though he caught three balls, they were his first receptions since November 24 and he hasn’t scored since November 17. In that time, Miller has emerged as Carr’s go-to-guy.
Avion Black’s touchdown put the game’s momentum up for grab. The teams exchanged punts as Houston began angling for field position. It worked, as Baltimore was backed up to their 14.
But on third-and-12, Blake hit Chester Taylor for 14 yards, getting Baltimore out from underneath their own goal post and, more importantly, extending the drive, which ended with a big Matt Stover field goal. It’s asking a lot of the defense to continually carry this team, but they have to make that play, force the punt, and keep the score within 6.
Billy Miller has officially emerged as Carr’s go-to-guy, catching 8 passes Sunday for 77 yards. More importantly than the catches — when was the last time you remember Miller dropping a pass? Could he be a budding Frank Wycheck?
Defense Fairly nondescript game from the defense, which didn’t sack Blake or force any turnovers. So, with that in mind, and because both corners were beaten on TD throws, Jamie Sharper, the team’s leading tackler with 8, gets the nod.
Special Teams Who needs Jermaine Lewis? Avion Black‘s 76-
yard punt return nearly turned the game around for Houston. But it bears mentioning, as good as he looked on the score, he muffed two other chances and had a costly penalty called on him when he signaled for a fair catch and blocked a man charging downfield. Exciting, but raw…
Final 1 2 3 4 F Ravens 3 10 7 3 23 Texans 0 7 7 5 19 PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 34 19 196 0/2 Blake 30 18 228 2/0 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Wells 14 48 3.4 1 Lewis 20 49 2.5 0 REC NO YDS AVG TD Miller 8 77 9.6 0 Taylor 5 96 19.2 1
2002 Record: (5-9) 12.22.02 | 12pm
3-23 9.29 @ Eagles 17-35 10.06 OPEN 10.13 BILLS 24-31 10.20 @ Browns 17-34 10.27 @ Jaguars 21-19 11.03 BENGALS 3-38 11.10 @ Titans 10-17 11.17 JAGUARS 21-24 11.24 GIANTS 16-14 12.01 @ Colts 3-19 12.08 @ Steelers 24-6 12.15 RAVENS 19-23 12.22 @ Redskins 10-26 12.29 TITANS 3-13 OVERALL 4-12 click on a team to read the GameDay Preview; click on the score to read the GameDay Review