The Baltimore Ravens defeated the error-prone Houston Texans 20-13 in the NFL divisional playoffs on Sunday to earn a date with the top-seeded New England Patriots in next week’s AFC Championship game.
Joe Flacco completed 14 of 27 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens, who took advantage of four Houston turnovers to move within one victory of a Super Bowl berth.
“The four turnovers were huge,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s the difference in football games, especially at this time of year. The fact that we capitalized on turnovers was probably the key to the game.”
Houston’s rookie quarterback T.J. Yates completed 17 of 35 passes for 184 yards, but tossed three costly interceptions. Throw in a muffed punt by Jacoby Jones that gave the Ravens the ball at the Texans’ two and you have a formula for failure.
“We had a couple of chances to go ahead, but we just hurt ourselves with turnovers,” Yates said. “We gave them the ball in great places to score and they did. Without those turnovers, we had a great chance to win.”
Baltimore’s eight-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed tipped his hat to Yates, who made the most of his shot after starting quarterback Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart were lost to injury during the regular season.
“I saw a guy that grew up within a couple weeks time,” said Reed, who had one interception, while cornerback Ladarius Webb had two. “Honestly, he 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.”
With the Ravens clinging to a 17-13 lead, Billy Cundiff booted a 44-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 52 seconds left in regulation to hike the lead to seven points.
Houston (11-7), hoping to extend their first-ever foray into the post-season, drove to the Baltimore 43 with 20 seconds left, but they surrendered the ball on downs.
“We did the one thing we couldn’t do to come in here and win,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “You have four turnovers and you don’t give yourself a chance. Right now, with our football team, if we don’t turn the ball over, we are pretty tough to beat.”
Ray Rice, who led all running backs this season with 2,068 yards from scrimmage, rushed for just 60 yards on 21 attempts.
Houston running back Arian Foster provided the offensive fireworks with 132 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown as the Texans outgained the Ravens 315-227 in total yards.
The Ravens held a 17-13 lead at the half despite 95 yards rushing and a score on 15 carries by Foster, who had an easy time slicing through the NFL’s second-ranked rushing defense.
Houston’s Neil Rackers kicked a 40-yard field goal on the game’s opening drive, but the Ravens scored the next 17 points by the end of the first quarter on Flacco scoring strikes to Kris Wilson and Anquan Boldin, and a 48-yard field goal by Cundiff.
A 33-yard field goal by Rackers and a one-yard score off right tackle by Foster late in the second period trimmed the Ravens’ lead to just four points at intermission.
“We came in at halftime knowing we had a great chance to win,” Yates said. “Our offensive line did a great job protecting me and we were able to run the ball well, but turnovers killed our opportunity to win and that’s what hurts now.”