Ravens Eliminate Texans Playoff Run 34-10

By Allan Jamail

On Saturday, January 20, 2024, playing in 20 degrees temperatures at M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the Baltimore Ravens, the Houston Texans lost their AFC divisional football playoff game 34–10. The outdoor, open-roof, frozen playing field was hard as a brick according to reports, yet seventy plus thousand fans braved the frigid cold to root for their teams.

Sunday morning after the game, back in their hometown of Houston, Coach DeMeco Ryans and wife Jamila were sitting in their normal pew at the Fifth Ward Church of Christ. They were greeted and congratulated by members for having turned the year-after-year-losing Texans into a playoff contender in DeMeco’s first year as head coach. They have three children, two sons named MJ and Micah and one daughter named Xia, and Jamila is expecting with another.

The Texans appeared to be in contention for a victory, having held the Ravens to just one touchdown and a field goal, with the momentum in favor of the Texans. With the game tied 10–10 and 1:40 left in the half, quarterback C. J. Stroud moved the Texans to within a 47 yard field goal attempt, which would have given them the lead and boosted their momentum.

But instead their short-lived momentum was deflated when, after nailing a 50-yard field goal earlier in the game, Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the field goal. The score remained tied at halftime, and the Texans never seriously threatened to score again. This was a noticeable turning point in the game.

Another big factor in the Texans loss was their costly eleven penalties. You can’t expect to win in playoff competition against the division’s number one seed and commit that many penalties. Their offense was shooting themselves in the foot. Numerous drives were stopped by eight offensive penalties in the first half; six were pre-snap penalties.

Instead of starting a drive with a first and ten, because of the pre-snap penalties they were facing first and fifteen, making it harder to get another first down. This resulted in their defense having to take the field more times in the freezing weather, which their endurance couldn’t withstand.

After the game, Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said their eleven penalties was a factor in their loss. He emphasized that the offensive pre-snap penalties were what really hurt, and he said, “You can’t have penalties against a really good defense.”

Quarterback C.J. Stroud said after the game, “Those pre-snap penalties hindered our drive; it’s hard to operate on third-and-long every time.”

The star of the game was Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Heading into the game he was considered by many to be the probable league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Jackson completed 16 passes for 152 passing yards with two passing touchdowns, in addition to 100 rushing yards and two rushing TDs.

Leading up to the game, Texans coach DeMeco Ryans knew of the 27 year old Jackson’s capabilities and warned his defensive players to concentrate on stopping him. His warning was with just cause, since Jackson at the age of 19 was the first player at the University of Louisville to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy.

Houston outplayed Baltimore in the first half, but it wasn’t sustainable because of their lack of a running game and the 11 penalties. The Ravens had only 3 penalties.

The Texans’ poor running game was another big reason for the loss, The running game produced a mere 38 yards on 14 carries (2.7 yd average). The Ravens defense took advantage of the ineffective run game and chased Stroud continuously, forcing him to not be able to hit his receivers.

Stroud played well in defeat. He went 19 of 33 for 175 with no interceptions. It is rumored that he is a candidate for the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, as well as that Coach Ryans is being considered for NFL’s Rookie Coach of the Year.

The Texans’ only touchdown came from Special Teams player Steven Sims, with a 67-yard punt return in the first half.

The Ravens took total control in the second half, eating up the clock; they produced three straight touchdown drives, while holding the Texans scoreless in the third and fourth quarters.

The Ravens will host the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game next Sunday, January 28th at 2pm Houston time on CBS (Houston’s channel 11). The Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, 27–24, in their AFC divisional playoff game. The winner will advance to the NFL Super Bowl 58, to be played in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday, February 11th at 5:30pm Houston time, to be televised on CBS.