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Texans unfazed at having to play at Baltimore a second time this season
Posted on January 8, 2012 at 11:44 pm by John McClain (Chronicle)
The Texans’ reward for defeating Cincinnati in a wild-card playoff game is a return trip to Baltimore, where they lost 29-14 on Oct. 16.
After Saturday’s 31-10 victory over the Bengals at Reliant Stadium, the Texans advance to the divisional round and a third game against the Ravens in two seasons.
Baltimore finished 12-4 and won the AFC North. The Ravens were 8-0 at home, including victories over Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and San Francisco. Counting the Texans, the Ravens beat four playoff teams at M&T Bank Stadium, outscoring them 111-51.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to play against those players (Ravens) with my players on this stage,” said running back Arian Foster, who carried 24 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals. “This is what athletes dream of.
“We’re 1-0 (in the playoffs) right now. We have a little momentum going into Baltimore, but they’re going to be well-rested.”
The Ravens have become a perennial playoff team under coach John Harbaugh, but they haven’t hosted a playoff game since Brian Billick was their coach.
Baltimore will have to defeat the Texans three times in two years to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
Last season, the Texans lost 34-28 in overtime when cornerback Josh Wilson returned a Matt Schaub interception for a touchdown.
This season, the game was closer than the score showed. The Texans were ahead 14-13 in the third quarter, and the Ravens led 19-14 before scoring 10 points at the end. Billy Cundiff kicked five field goals in the Ravens’ win.
“We’re familiar with each other,” inside linebacker Brian Cushing said. “We’ve been there, so it’s not going to be anything new other than being a little louder with the playoff environment.
“Coming off the bye, they’ll be excited, but we’ll be ready. It’s going to be an exciting challenge for us.”
The Texans (11-6) play a style similar to that of the Ravens. Both teams rely heavily on the running game and play outstanding defense.
The Texans ranked second in rushing and second in defense. In the first game, the Ravens limited the Texans to 293 yards. Foster carried 15 times for 49 yards. The Texans finished with 90 yards rushing.
The Ravens accumulated 402 yards, including 305 passing by Joe Flacco and 101 rushing by Ray Rice.
“We have our hands full,” offensive tackle Eric Winston said. “Baltimore’s a tough team, especially up there. I’ll
tell you what, though: If we can play mistake-free like (in the Bengals game) and we can run the ball, I like our chances against anybody.
“It’s going to be one of those games where we have to make some big plays. Having Andre (Johnson) back will be nice, but we have to be more consistent running the ball up there, too.”
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph played an outstanding game against Cincinnati. He intercepted a pass and limited receiver A.J. Green to five catches for 47 yards.
Joseph played his first five seasons with the Bengals, so he has played against the Ravens 10 times, including five in Baltimore.
“The playoffs are all about momentum,” he said. “You find a lot of teams that get hot early and they go to the playoffs, and they’re one-and-done. Then you find some teams that catch momentum late, and they ride it all the way to the end and find some way to get to the Super Bowl.
“For us, hopefully, we’ve clicked at the right time.”
That is what coach Gary Kubiak hopes.
“Our guys know what to expect,” Kubiak said. “They know what type of team we’re playing. It’ll be a physical game.
“We’ll have to handle a hostile crowd, and we have to do it with the kid (quarterback T.J. Yates) again. But do you know what? That’s kind of the way we play. It’s the type of football we like to play. I think we’ll play well.”