As the Ravens (5-3) take on the Texans (3-5) today at Reliant Stadium in a game rescheduled due to Hurricane Ike’s wrath, Baltimore may be gearing up for a run-first approach. The Texans’ soft run defense lost its leading tackler for the season when linebacker Zac Diles broke his leg in a freak accident at practice this week.
2. Can the Ravens expose Sage Rosenfels?
Rosenfels is a streaky player prone to turnovers with two interceptions and two lost fumbles in his six quarters this season. He is under center due to a knee injury to starter Matt Schaub. Rosenfels’ numbers are respectable, with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 67.7 completion percentage for 470 yards and a 92.8 rating. He has a tendency to force the action, a major flaw. He threw three interceptions in a game against
3. Can the Ravens contain Andre Johnson?
The Ravens’ injury-riddled secondary will have its hands full with Johnson, a blue-chip wideout who leads the NFL in receiving yardage per game with a 104.3 average and ranks second overall with 60 receptions. The Ravens may have to employ some Cover 2 schemes to keep him from breaking free. Double-coverage tactics and jamming the 6-foot-3, 223-pounder at the line of scrimmage was relatively effective for the Minnesota Vikings in a 28-21 victory last week. Although cornerback Samari Rolle (neck surgery) is expected to return today, the player most suited to guard Johnson is sidelined because of a chronic right knee injury: cornerback Chris McAlister. Reed will have to help out over the top, whether it’s Rolle or Fabian Washington who draws this tough assignment.
4. Can the Ravens win the pass-rush battle?
5. Will the Ravens’ special teams rebound?
The Ravens’ kick coverage was awful against the Cleveland Browns as Joshua Cribbs had 237 return yards, including a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Now, they have to contend with Texans punt returner Jacoby Jones. He has two punt returns for touchdowns this season and is averaging 12.9 yards per return. The Ravens have to do a better job of maintaining discipline in their coverage lanes and a cleaner job of tackling in the open field. Look for some different faces on the coverage teams.
If this critical assignment doesn’t fall to Samari Rolle as he’s expected to return from a neck injury that required surgery, then
1. On if he’s surprised at the 5-3 start: “Yeah, I am surprised we’re 5-3. If you look at it, our record could be a little better than what it is. But, honestly, no, I’m not surprised because we have a very good team. I think our depth is a lot better than it was last year.
“We have some guys down, but we have some guys that are able to step up and make plays on this team and play a big role in what we’re trying to do as an offense and a defense and special teams. I’m not surprised. I’m just surprised that our record is not better than the 5-3 record that we have now.”
2. On the significance of road wins: “That we’re focused. That we’re determined as a team to stick together, regardless of what the situation is. It’s easy in this league to win at home. It’s hard to win on the road. For whatever reason, I don’t know, but it’s hard to win on the road.
“Any time you can go into anybody’s home and beat them, then it’s good. I think it speaks volumes up to this point, what we’ve been able to do on the road.”
3. On rookie coach John Harbaugh: “He’s not a rookie. I think he’s accepted this challenge as being a first-year head coach, and everyone bought into what the coaching staff is preaching around here. I think any time you have 53 – or however many players there are – buying into one thing, then you’re going to have success.
"That’s what guys are doing. We’re buying in to what coach Harbaugh is preaching, and we’re staying the course, and that breeds success.”
Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak
1. On plugging in quarterback Sage Rosenfels with Matt Schaub out: “We went through the same thing last year. We lost Matt for a period of time and Sage came in and started for us and played very, very well. He’s a guy who even though he’s been a backup throughout his career, he does have a great deal of snaps here with this football team the last two years.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in him, and he came in last week and played real well for us and gave us an opportunity. To be honest with you, they’re a lot alike.”
2. On wide receiver Andre Johnson: “As a worker, he reminds me of Jerry Rice. I was in
3. On the recovery from Hurricane Ike: “They’ve been tremendous. Everybody here in town had their problems for about a three-week, four-week span. I’d say probably 60 percent of our team was out of electricity for at least three weeks. So it was a difficult time to work through because you’re trying to continue to do your job and you’ve got family problems at home.