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Divisional grades: Texans-Ravens


Grading out the performances from the Ravens' 20-13 nailbiter win over the Houston Texans in Sunday's AFC divisional matchup.

Quarterback: T.J. Yates turned in, quite honestly, the type of performance you'd expect from a rookie QB making his first road playoff start. Yates threw a few nice passes and managed to sidestep the Baltimore rush on multiple occasions. But he also tossed three egregious interceptions -- the third killed a late drive as Houston was looking to tie the game -- and made some miserable decisions down the stretch. Grade: C-

Running Backs: You could make a pretty convincing case that Arian Foster was the best player on the field Sunday. He carried 27 times for 132 yards and Houston's lone touchdown. While he received a huge helping hand from his offensive line, Foster also showed off his great vision and cutback ability in making Baltimore's defenders miss tackles. Grade: A

Receivers: Andre Johnson finished with eight catches for 111 yards but, by and large, Houston's receivers struggled to get open. The normally sure-handed Kevin Walter had a drop that cost Houston a first down in the opening quarter, and you have to wonder if Johnson could have done more to play defense on the two interceptions that occurred in front of him -- specifically, Yates' fourth-quarter jump ball that was intercepted by Ed Reed. Grade: D+

Offensive Line: All season long, this has been a dominant group and it showed why again Sunday. The Texans constantly blew Baltimore off the line on run plays, and they gave Yates time on most of his drop-backs. Given the defense it was up against, Houston's offensive line would have had a hard time playing a better game. Grade: A

Defensive Line: Five sacks of Joe Flacco, a goal-line stand that included two stuffs of Ray Rice and a 3rd-and-inches stop of Vonta Leach in the closing seconds. Long story short, Houston's defensive line turned in a gem. The catalyst for it all was J.J. Watt, who followed up a big wild-card round performance with 2.5 sacks Sunday. Grade: A-

Linebackers: Brooks Reed matched Watt's 2.5 sacks with a steady stream of quick moves at the line. DeMeco Ryans had a decent game, as well, and the play of the day for Houston's defense may have come from Tim Dobbins, who denied Rice's 4th-and-goal plunge at the Texans' 1. Grade: A-

Defensive Backs: It was an up-and-down day for the Houston secondary. For the most part, the effort was terrific, especially from Johnathon Joseph, who locked down Torrey Smith and came up with a couple of tremendous pass breakups. But the Texans also surrendered two big plays to Anquan Boldin and one to Lee Evans -- essentially accounting for all of the Ravens' meaningful offense. Grade: C+

Special Teams: Ugh. What a nightmare here for Houston. It started early, when Jacoby Jones made a boneheaded attempt to field a bouncing punt and muffed it, leading to a Baltimore recovery and a touchdown that gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead. Jones finished with four yards on six punt returns, a pitiful 0.7 yards-per-attempt average. Neil Rackers also clanked a 50-yard field goal off the crossbar and Matt Turk shanked a punt in the fourth quarter with a chance to flip field position. Danieal Manning's game-opening, 60-yard return was the highlight. Grade: D+

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Coaching: From an effort standpoint, it's hard to ask for more than what Houston gave. With a rookie QB, the Texans rallied from a 17-3 deficit on the road and had a chance to steal one. The big question mark is why Yates threw for the end zone late on the Reed interception, when the Texans were driving with intermediate passes. If that was the play call, it was a disastrous one. Grade: B-

Quarterback: Joe Flacco quipped to reporters this week that, if the Ravens won, he'd get no credit. Well ... Flacco did connect on two TD passes, one to Kris Wilson and one to Anquan Boldin. And he did deliver those few over-the-top passes that gave Baltimore's offense what little life it mustered. But he also let too many throws get away from him and showed almost no pocket presence in the face of Houston's pass rush. Grade: C

Running Backs: Ray Rice wants to get paid, with his contract expiring -- and he will. But if Baltimore is going to run up the gut twice from the opposition's 1-yard line, there's no excuse for Rice to get stymied both times. Rice and Ricky Williams combined for 87 yards on 27 carries, and Rice added a 20-yard reception. The production, though, must be much higher at New England next week. Grade: B-

Receivers: If not for a couple acrobatic catches by Boldin and one by Evans, this group might have earned failing marks. No one was able to get open against Houston's secondary, save for Boldin on his 10-yard TD catch. Grade: C-

Offensive Line: This matchup was billed as a battle of strength vs. strength -- Houston's physical game against Baltimore's. But the reason this was so close late was that Houston won the battles in the trenches. The Ravens' offensive line was so-so run blocking and seemed lost in pass protection. On one Flacco pass attempt, all four Texans that rushed reached the QB at the same time for a crunching sack. Grade: C

Defensive Line: More or less a repeat of what was just said about Baltimore's offensive line. The Ravens' defensive front was driven back off the ball way too frequently and failed to get in Yates' grill. When they did generate pressure, it didn't lead to any sacks. Still, they held up just enough to put the clamps on most of Houston's drives. Grade: C

Linebackers: Terrell Suggs was far from a dominant factor in this game. Ray Lewis, though, picked this unit up. As usual, he was all over the field, destroying a fourth-quarter screen pass to Arian Foster, forcing a Yates throwaway on third down deep in Baltimore territory and helping to limit Owen Daniels. Grade: B

Defensive Backs: It would have been easy for the Ravens to get caught peeking into the backfield -- much like Pittsburgh did against Denver last week -- since Houston featured such a formidable run game. Instead, Baltimore prevented any really big plays in the pass game, then took advantage when Yates made mistakes. Lardarius Webb had two of Baltimore's three interceptions and continued to show that he's one of the league's rising stars at cornerback. Grade: A-

Special Teams: Where Houston failed, Baltimore thrived. Billy Cundiff drilled two field goals, including a 48-yarder against a swirling wind. Sam Koch, meanwhile, averaged nearly 50 yards per punt -- or about 10 yards more than Turk. The defense made sure Manning's opening return did not turn into more than three points, and the Ravens' special teams more than made up for that with the fumble recovery later. Grade: A-

Coaching: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will have some explaining to do after his late play-calling gave Houston time to mount a possible comeback. As has happened too often this season, the Ravens got away from Ray Rice at key times, and it nearly came back to haunt them. On the bright side, the Ravens didn't commit a penalty all game. Grade: C