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One Winning Drive: Grading the Ravens

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Quarterback: A
For weeks, Joe Flacco has managed the offense, and that trend continued against the Texans. The rookie protected the ball, while still taking plenty of shots down the field. All told, Flacco turned in a solid performance with a 118.9 passer rating that included 185 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco is beginning to come into his own at a very important time for the Ravens. Troy Smith also continues to contribute to the team, as he threw for a touchdown.

Offensive line: B-
For the most part, the offensive line protected their quarterback. Although the unit allowed three sacks, they did a great job at opening up running lanes to help sustain drives. The Texans’ star defensive back, Mario Williams, was held in check throughout the game. Penalties continue to plague the line.

Wide receivers: B
Last week, the offense welcomed Mark Clayton to the 2008 season. This week, it was Todd Heap’s turn to be reintroduced to the offense. Heap turned in a two touchdown performance. Yamon Figurs was serviceable in place of Derrick Mason, who suffered a dislocated shoulder early in the game. Despite the injury, Mason caught three passes for 41 yards.

Running backs: B+
Willis McGahee returned to the field after watching rookie Ray Rice trample the Browns last week. McGahee racked up two touchdowns of his own; his best performance of the season.

Defensive Line: A
Haloti Ngata showed sheer dominance throughout the game. From snagging an interception in the red zone, forcing an interception, and nearly blocking a punt, Ngata is having a Pro-Bowl year. The unit also held the Texans’ red zone offense in check, limiting them to just three points from inside the five-yard line.

Linebackers: A
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis hauled in two interceptions that looked like they were intended for him anyway. Lewis finished the game with eight tackles. The unit helped ensure that the running game was taken away from Houston, while limiting the short yardage passes of Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels. Terrell Suggs was able to pressure Rosenfels throughout the game, and managed a safety early in the game.

Defensive Backs: B-
The secondary did a decent job of containing Texans receiver Andre Johnson, limiting him to 66 yards and no touchdowns. Samari Rolle returned to the field and hauled in an interception of his own. The unit was exploited a couple of times in the game. One of those miscues resulted in a Houston touchdown. Against a better quarterback, the secondary might have had big problems.

Special teams: B
Steve Hauschka announced his arrival to the Ravens squad by sinking a field goal from 54 yards, while punter Sam Koch held the Texans in check. The kickoff coverage was much improved this week. Matt Stover missed a 50-yard field goal, but that is quite a stretch for him anyway.

Coaching: B+
The Ravens clearly executed the game plan they wanted. The offense continues to field a balance attack to keep opposing defenses honest. The defense continues to dominate opposing offenses, while the Ravens offense sustains drives, eating up the clock and actually scoring. Why was Stover sent out to kick a field goal from midfield when  Hauschka already proved he could kick it from further?

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