Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 1: Ravens 25, Texans 9 — Four Winners, Four Losers

The DeMeco Ryans Era begins.
The DeMeco Ryans Era begins. Photo by Eric Sauseda
In the box score, there were certain key aspects of the Week 1 matchup between the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens that would indicate a fairly even game, or perhaps even a Texans win. The two teams were almost dead even in total yards (268 for the Texans, 265 for the Ravens), time of possession (29:05 for the Texans, 30:55 for the Ravens), and literally dead even in first downs (18 apiece).

Hell, the Texans won the all important turnover battle, generating two to the Ravens' one, and had four fewer penalties than the Ravens for 18 fewer penalty yards. Still, when all was said and done, it was the Ravens winning by 16 points, final score 25-9, largely due to taking advantage of three of their red zone opportunities. The Texans were 0-2 in their scant red zone opportunities.

So the DeMeco Ryans Era is off to a start that was not unforeseen. They were the biggest underdog on the board in Vegas this weekend (9.5 point spread), and they're starting a rookie quarterback behind a patchwork offensive line ravaged by injuries. As always, there were winners and losers this weekend, and here they are:


4. Robert Woods
The Texans' receivers room is largely viewed around the league as one of the least talented and/or most inexperienced. Robert Woods is the one cagey veteran player in that room, having come into the league in 2013. Last season, Woods was toiling for the Tennessee Titans and recovering from an ACL tear. He signed with the Texans this offseason for a new lease on life, and in  his debut, he didn't have eye popping stats (6 catches, 57 yards), but on one of the Texans' scoring drives, their 15-play drive in the second quarter that ended in a field goal, Woods converted three third downs. Along with Nico Collins and his six catches for 80 yards, the Texans showed a capable 1-2 punch with their top two receivers.

3. Will Anderson
Anderson was a force throughout the preseason, giving Texans fans optimism that the heavy investment the team made to acquire him — a package of draft picks sent to Arizona, including the Texans' first round pick — would pay off. Anderson finished the game with six tackles and his first career sack, a play where he powered through the Ravens' right tackle, was knocked to the ground, and was able to get up, gather himself, and bring Lamar Jackson to the ground. Anderson looks like the hype is real.

2. Good DeMeco stuff
Like any head coach making his debut in the NFL, particularly one debuting as head coach of one of the worst teams in the league the year before, in a hostile environment on the road, it was mixed bag with DeMeco Ryans. We will get to the "needs improvement" areas in the :LOSERS" section, but let's start with the things I liked. There were two big ones. First, this defense looks vastly improved overall, but particularly defending the run. Second, I loved Ryans' aggressiveness on fourth down, going for it on fourth and short in his own territory not once, but twice. The Texans didn't convert either one, but the aggressive mentality was the correct one, in a game where the Texans were a decided road underdog.

1. Zay Flowers
In the 2023 draft, there were four wide receivers selected in the first round, all right in a row from the 20th overall pick through the 23rd overall pick. In order, it was Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, Zay Flowers, and Jordan Addison. Flowers is the one the Texans had to deal with yesterday, and he was my personal favorite of those four coming out of the draft. You can see, early on, that the Ravens plan to get the ball in his hands any way possible. Flowers had 8 catches for 87 yards, including some key third down conversions. He was a problem all afternoon for the Texans, and should be a big x-factor for Ravens offensive coordinator Told Monken in his attempt to incorporate more passing into the Ravens' attack.


4. Jalen Pitre's chest
In the first half, the Ravens had five possessions. They scored a touchdown on one of them, but on the other four, the Texans' defense was able to make a play to get off the field. Jon Greenard had a sack on third down on the Raven's first possession, Steven Nelson had an interception on the second possession, and on the Ravens' final two possessions of the half, safety Jalen Pitre brought heat on Jackson with safety blitzes to force the Ravens off the field on third down. Unfortunately, on the second blitz, Pitre took a knee to the chest from Jackson, and was knocked out for the rest of the game with a bruised lung. Hopefully, it's nothing too serious, as Pitre is a huge key for whatever long term improvement this Texans' defense experiences in 2023.

3. Laremy Tunsil
Tunsil is the Texans' best player. He is also their highest paid player. Additionally, he is one of the few healthy offensive linemen on the team. If the Texans are going to move the football on the ground, and give Stroud the help he needs to go score points, Tunsil has to bring his "A" game. In the first half of the loss to the Ravens, Tunsil had crucial penalties, both on third downs — one was a holding penalty, and the other, a false start. Additionally, the sack of Stroud to begin the second half ...

2. The SEC
We hit PAUSE on the Texans' loss to the Ravens to recognize the helter skelter early season results from college football, including the regression of the sport's most dominant conference, the SEC. In the first two weeks of the season, we've seen some of the blue bloods in the SEC knocked off their perch — Alabama (by Texas on Saturday), LSU (by Florida State in Week 1), Florida (by Utah in Week 1), and Texas A&M (by Miami on Saturday). Even 11th ranked Tennessee was tied with Austin Peay just before halftime. In this brave new world of realignment and an expanded playoff, perhaps parity begins to enter the picture a bit more. Don't worry, SEC fans, Georgia is still the runaway number one team in the country.

1. Bad DeMeco stuff
We mentioned the positive from Ryans' debut earlier in this post, but we need to acknowledge the areas that need improvement, and quickly, for Ryans outfit. While the margin of loss is disturbing, admittedly you can feel the sense of direction with this franchise with Ryans and Stroud in place. However, the operation did not run smoothly at times on Sunday. The Texans had to burn all three timeouts in the first half with eight minutes still remaining on the clock. In the second half, on the Texans' second possession, they needed to burn a timeout as the team was operating with zero urgency coming out of the TV timeout. Inexcusable stuff. As far as personnel decisions go, inserting Michael Deiter for the injured George Fant at right tackle led directly to the Texans' only turnover, as Deiter got smoked off the edge on a strip sack. The next series, Deiter was at left guard, and Josh Jones was moved to right tackle. This should have been the combo to begin with, after Fant left the game. Again, these are small, fixable things, but things that impact winning, when the Texans are ready to start winning at a high level, hopefully in the next couple seasons.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast