Texans come home with heads held high

Texans come home with heads held high

Credit: AP

Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith, right, loses his helmet as he and teammate outside linebacker Brooks Reed, left, tackle Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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Associated Press

Posted on January 17, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 10 at 11:11 PM

The Texans cleaned out their lockers Monday, but with their heads high. Their first foray into the postseason began with a 31-10 rout of Cincinnati and ended with a valiant effort behind a determined rookie quarterback and a defense that lived up to its No. 2 regular-season ranking.

"Guys are disappointed, but at the same time, being this was our first time, it was a great learning experience for us," said wide receiver Andre Johnson, who had eight catches for 111 yards. "When we come back and get in this position again, we’ll know how to deal with it."

Arian Foster ran for 132 yards, the first player to top 100 yards on the ground against the Ravens in the postseason. That gave him an NFL-record 285 yards rushing over his first two playoff games.

"We gave it our best shot, but the beautiful thing about his thing we have in Houston is that it can only go up from here," Foster said. "Houston should be excited about it. I’m excited about it, and this franchise is excited about it."

Baltimore led 17-3 after the first quarter, and interceptions by Lardarius Webb and Ed Reed in the final 7 ½ minutes helped the advantage stand up.

Reed has eight interceptions in 10 playoff games, few bigger than the last one.

"You can’t say enough about him," Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "His big plays always seem to happen when you need one."

Yates’ three interceptions matched the total he had in six regular season games.

"I can’t have the turnovers," Yates said. "If we don’t turn the ball over like that, we have a chance to win. And we still had a chance to win. If I’d done a better job of protecting the football, I really think we’d have come out with the win today. We did a good job of moving the ball and we had some big plays, but you can’t have that many picks."

The rookie QB was forced into Houston’s starting lineup because Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart got hurt, part of a string of injuries the Texans managed to overcome en route to the AFC South title. That Houston was in the second round of the playoffs at all was seen as a significant accomplishment, given they lost two quarterbacks to injuries, played nine games without Johnson and finished without sack specialist Mario Williams.

Afterward, owner Bob McNair pulled aside coach Gary Kubiak to offer some encouraging words.

"I told him how proud I was. ... To come out and play the way this team has played, I think it’s just remarkable," McNair said. "Where would New England have been if (Tom) Brady wasn’t playing, and if Wes Welker wasn’t playing, and if their best defensive player wasn’t playing? Go down the list of any of these teams and ask where they would be—and they wouldn’t be in the playoffs. And this team was in the playoffs."

Down 17-13 at halftime, Houston twice held the Ravens without a first down in the third quarter before driving to the Baltimore 32. From there, Neil Rackers’ 50-yard field goal try hit the crossbar and dropped into the end zone.

Baltimore then launched a drive in which seldom-used Lee Evans made a sensational one-handed catch for a 30-yard gain on third-and-5 from the Houston 39. On fourth-and-goal inside the 1, Rice was stuffed by linebacker Tim Dobbins for no gain.

"That’s a huge play," Houston defensive end J.J. Watt said. "Those are the type of plays that win playoffs games. Obviously, we wish it had gone the other way, but those are the type of plays that you remember."

The Texans couldn’t move the ball, and the Ravens took the ensuing punt at the Houston 49. But three plays netted only 4 yards, and Sam Koch punted for the seventh time.

Minutes later, the Ravens went three and out for the fourth time in five second-half possessions. Fortunately for Baltimore, the defense compensated for the team’s inability to add to its early lead.

"You have to do whatever you have to do to win a football game," Harbaugh said.

NOTES: Baltimore improved to 6-0 against Houston, 2-0 this season. ... It was the Ravens’ first home playoff win since 2000. ... With the Ravens’ home win, it’s the first time since the NFL went to current playoff format in 1990 that the first seven games have been won by the home team.

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