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Texans looking to make two in a row a reality versus Ravens

(Sports Network) - The Houston Texans will look to put together their first two-game winning streak in franchise history in Week 15 when they welcome the Baltimore Ravens to Reliant Stadium on Sunday.

The Ravens dropped a 37-25 decision last week to the New Orleans Saints. QB Jeff Blake passed for 316 yards against his old team, but the Ravens committed five costly turnovers and had two punts blocked in the loss.

"You donít win in this league when you turn the ball over, and you certainly donít beat a team the caliber of the New Orleans Saints when you have turnovers," said Ravens head coach Brian Billick, whose team allowed the most points in a game since he took over in 1999. "Itís more disturbing that we canít raise our level of play right now against the quality teams."

The Ravens are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but with seven losses their backs are certainly against the wall. Even if the Ravens win out, there is no guarantee they will gain a playoff spot.

Last week, the Texans' best offensive player was cornerback Aaron Glenn, who returned two interceptions for touchdowns in Houston's shocking 24-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Any time you can beat a team of this caliber it makes it great because [Pittsburgh] is a really great team," said Glenn. "They have a lot of good players on that team and we went out there and we played them, head up, man on man. We played them as hard as we can and we got a victory out of it."

SERIES HISTORY: This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

Billick has never faced the Texans, while Houston head coach Dom Capers is 1-0 lifetime against the Ravens.

RAVENS OFFENSE VS. TEXANS DEFENSE

The Ravens' offense has struggled for most of the year but it has shown some flashes. Last week, Blake looked good but the interceptions definitely hurt his team.

"I really wanted to go out and play well against [New Orleans]," said the ex- Saint Blake. "I wanted to beat them real bad. It didn't happen for me. But this is a team effort, and we have a good, capable, competitive football team."

Another player who had mixed emotions following the game was running back Jamal Lewis, who rushed for 48 yards and caught four passes for 108 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown grab. But Lewis also fumbled twice.

"I just had a jinxed day, a bad day carrying the ball," Lewis said. "I put the defense in an awkward position to try to make a stop, and New Orleans ended up converting on both of them. I had to redeem myself [with the touchdown]. I just wish we could have had one or two more of those.

"I had been taking care of the ball. That's what makes it really discouraging, because that's what I've been working on. My ball-carrying, my ball-handling, really trying to get back in that groove, carrying the ball and the contact."

Despite the poor outing in terms of holding the football, Lewis should get some consideration for comeback player of the year. He has already rushed for 1,092 yards and six scores on the year, and he leads the Ravens' rushing attack that averages 112.5 yards per game.

Another key to the offense has been tight end Todd Heap. Heap, who leads the team in receptions with 51, has been the focal point of the offense this year.

"We drafted Todd to [fill Shannon Sharpe's shoes] and we drafted him at a time that we knew he would be mentored by Shannon which was a year that accelerated his growth exponentially," Billick said. "Todd is a phenomenal tight end and I think that he is one of the best tight ends of the game and is going to get nothing but better and better."

This week, the Ravens will have to avoid turnovers, because they are facing a very opportunistic defense. The Texans scored three touchdowns last week, and all of them came when the defense was on the field. Glenn returned two interceptions and Kenny Wright ran a fumble back 40 yards for a score.

"Dom [Capers] has done an incredible job with [GM] Charley [Casserly] to put together an outstanding defense, not withstanding what they did last weekend, which was just phenomenal," Billick said. "I donít know that Iíve ever seen a game like that.

"This defense has two outstanding interior people with [defensive tackles] Seth Payne and Gary Walker. I donít know that there is a better set of tackles in the game. They have a very athletic linebacker corps. [Ex-Raven] Jamie Sharper, who weíre obviously very familiar with, and Kailee Wong, who I knew in my days at Minnesota coming out of Stanford. And then the have a secondary with maybe one of the best sets of corners in the game -- Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman.

"Theyíre a veteran defense, but theyíre not an old veteran defense. Thereís no reason they canít be together for awhile. Dom, when he went to Carolina, did a great job of putting together a veteran defense, but that defense was a little long on the tooth when they got there and aged very quickly. This defense you can see has every opportunity to stay together for a while. Theyíre one of the top defenses that Iíve seen all year long."

TEXANS OFFENSE VS. RAVENS DEFENSE

The Texans' offense accomplished very little last week, but it's a tribute to the defense and the coaching staff that they still managed to beat a good Pittsburgh team on the road. Starting QB David Carr completed just 3-of-10 passes for 33 yards -- all to tight end Billy Miller. In fact, the offense gained just 47 total yards, three first downs, and held the ball for barely over 20 minutes in the game.

"If we'd lost...it would have been horrible," admitted Carr.

"For me it's going to be hard looking [the defense] in the eye," Miller said. "If we'd lost, there probably would have been a bunch of new guys here today, like a whole new offense except for No. 8 [Carr] over there."

But the Texans didn't lose, and the offense committed just one turnover in the contest. However, the offensive line still can't find a way to keep Carr from getting sacked. Last week Carr was sacked four times, bringing the grand total to 68 on the season. The NFL's single-season record is 72 set by Philadelphia's Randall Cunningham in 1986.

"Somehow, some way we've got to protect David," Miller added. "That's why we're playing it so safe, so we don't get David killed. No quarterback has ever been hit as much as he has. We're all to blame, not just the offensive line. I personally feel bad about it."

Chester Pitts, the rookie who has manned the left tackle position since Tony Boselli is out with an injury, also admits the blocking has to improve

"I think I'm moving fast, doing everything right, using good technique," Pitts said. "Then I watch the film. I understood the NFL would be hard. I knew everybody's good up here. But I didn't think it would be this hard."

The Ravens, who have recorded 25 sacks on the season, will look to increase that number this week. Billick will do whatever he can to get to the Texans' rookie signal-caller. But that means the Texans will keep throwing the football to a minimum.

This has been a tough year for the Ravens' defense. It was just last year that the Ravens were considered the best defense in the NFL, but this season the unit is allowing an average of 343.8 yards per game (23rd in NFL) and 22.1 points per game (17th). That being said, Billick is proud of what his young defense has accomplished this year -- playing most of the season without All- Pro MLB Ray Lewis.

"This has been a year like no other that Iíve been a part of," Billick said. "It has been gratifying. This is a young group of good players. Itís been fun to watch them grow. Challenging them certainly when you are the youngest team in the NFL. To watch them grow collectively and individually, and to be at a point here in December where we do have a possible playoff contention, yes, itís very exciting.

"Iím very pleased with the way [the secondary is] playing. Particularly [safeties] Ed Reed and Will Demps. One comes out as a highly talented draft choice [Reed] and the other is a free agent from San Diego State [Demps] and itís been fun to watch them develop and watch them develop a relationship. In the secondary, itís much like a quarterback and receiver. There is a wide space of area that you have to cover so it takes a certain relationship and an ability to communicate. To watch that grow between them and for them to come together and play in sync is one of those things that makes you enjoy coaching."

12/12 16:19:01 ET


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