BALTIMORE — It was playoff football in name only. Only Arian Foster (132 rush yards) and the surging Texans defensive line delivered a championship show. The rest of it was a delight for the morticians — rouge on a corpse.
For every iron-legged Joe Flacco sack there was an interception or near-interception thrown by Texans passer T.J. Yates, the fifth-round rookie. An early special-teams flub set up Baltimore at the Houston 2 and the Ravens three-putted it in.
And when Flacco took the sayonara knee to close out his club's 20-13 win, the fans sorta just numbed their way out to their cars, and the serenading Baltimore marching band clunked out a few sour notes to send them on their way.
"We did the one thing we couldn't do to come in here and win," the drained Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "Four turnovers ... you don't give yourself a chance."
It was a cut-up, heads-down Texans locker room, the kind you expect to see when a good team gives it away, and you had to stretch and strain to catch the hushed tone of their postgame explanations and comments.
"We had our running game working, we were clearing out holes and despite getting behind (17-3) early we stuck with our game plan," C Chris Myers said. "But four turnovers ... I mean, what can you say?"
Added ILB Brian Cushing, "It seems like Baltimore has done this for so long, making big plays. We didn't do it today, but overall I don't think we could have played any better."
"I knew we were facing one of the best defenses around," said Yates, who ended up completing 17-of-35 passes for 184 yards and zero TDs, "and I learned pretty quickly that just because I read the right coverage the play may not work."
He was talking about Baltimore safetyman Ed Reed, who stole one of his passes late and broke up four more. Reed had baited him into a couple of deep looks then raced in like a cheetah to knock them apart. Yates didn't get into Lardarius Webb, the guy who read his eyes and stole two.
"We were talking about how we needed some turnovers to change this game," said Webb, the Ravens' third-year cornerback. "Our front seven ... they were pressuring (Yates) all day. He made his throws a little light, or he didn't get to read his throws, so it made the interceptions easy on me."
Added Reed, "(Yates) made some throws, and then they gave themselves a chance to win right there at the end. You can't ask for anything more than that against a defense like ours and being a young quarterback. They actually had more yards than our offense ... hats off to those guys."
And that was the theme you took out of Baltimore Sunday afternoon — war-toughened Ravens clamp down on an iffy third-string passer, and make their early lead stick. That's good enough for the home fans, who haven't toasted a playoff win here since 2000. But there's a whole different layer of action waiting for them in New England next week. The Pats make points like popcorn. Tom Brady won't get tricked deep by Reed. Brady won't shiver and force it into Webb.
"When it's all said and done, it's going to be Johnny (Unitas), Brady and Peyton (Manning) — end of discussion," OLB Terrell Suggs said.
Suggs is talking all-time. This time the Ravens were flat. They're lucky it was T.J. Yates.