Despite a four-game win streak and a 5-1 record, the Baltimore Ravens seemed to be trending toward a meltdown one of these weeks. It looks like that inevitability finally arrived Sunday in Houston.
After rallying past New England in Week 3, the Ravens had to hold on for dear life against the then-winless Browns, picked up an ugly 9-6 win in Kansas City in Week 5, then survived a Dallas comeback for a 31-29 victory last Sunday.
All along, the Ravens' defense showed some warts -- and their situation got a lot worse last week when season-ending injuries struck down Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb.
Baltimore's hope this Sunday came in the form of Terrell Suggs, who made a miraculously fast recovery from an offseason Achilles tear to rejoin the lineup against the Texans. Suggs was back at practice this week after starting the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The Ravens had three weeks to decide if Suggs should be activated for game action or placed on injured reserve for the season.
Suggs needed less than one full week to prove he was ready to go.
And in the first half Sunday, not only did Suggs make his way onto the field, he was a fixture out there for Baltimore's defense. In his first two quarters of action this season, Suggs recorded three tackles, a sack, a hurry of Matt Schaub and a batted pass.
If there was a bright spot for the Ravens as Houston raced out to a stunning 29-3 halftime lead, it was Suggs.
Of course, even with one of their defensive leaders back, the Ravens still looked almost totally lost on both sides of the football early against Houston.
Not helping the Ravens' cause was a curious offensive game plan that saw Joe Flacco attempt 20 passes in the first half, while Ray Rice got just six carries. Flacco squeezed a mere 52 yards out of those pass attempts, barely topping the 35 yards Rice gained. Worse yet, Flacco threw a pair of interceptions -- one, tipped at the line and returned by Johnathan Joseph for a touchdown; the second, off another tip, killed a Ravens drive late in the first half.
Baltimore's hope, in light of all its defensive injuries, has been that its talented offense could carry the load. So far, that's not been the case.
Suggs' reemergence can only help so much on defense, too, if the rest of the Ravens don't get their acts together. Turning a bad situation worse Sunday: Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata, a player of even greater importance up the middle of the D with Lewis sidelined, limped off late in the second quarter. Ngata suffered a minor knee injury in last week's fateful win over Dallas but was believed to be good to go Sunday. The Texans are 5-1 (and soon to be 6-1) and the Ravens will stay in first place in the AFC North, regardless of what happens for the rest of Sunday. But if a wounded Baltimore team cannot get its act together -- and find some healthy bodies -- during a much-needed bye week, then the rest of the season might feel exceptionally long.