The Houston Texans came into Baltimore with high achievements and higher hopes. Fresh off a blowout win over the Cleveland Browns, they aimed for an upset victory over the Baltimore Ravens, led by MVP favorite Lamar Jackson. But it wasn’t to be. Jackson’s brilliant performance – he threw two touchdowns and ran for two more – was but one of their problems. Hampered by crowd noise, numerous penalties, and a stout Ravens defense, Houston lost to Baltimore, 34-10.
Inside M&T Bank Stadium, Houston won the coin toss and elected to go first on offense. It was clear that head coach Demeco Ryans wanted to set the tone early. But evident from the very start were the difficulties in Houston’s run game. Texans running back Devin Singletary got stopped on the very first play (and several more after that). Quarterback C.J. Stroud’s first pass was broken up, too. Houston went three-and-out on its first drive.
Baltimore took over after Houston’s punt. The Ravens’ drive took them to the red zone; after it stalled, the Ravens settled for a field goal. Kicker Justin Tucker booted through a 53-yard attempt to give the Ravens a 3-0 lead – hardly surprising for the man who is the most accurate NFL kicker in history.
Stroud threw a 26-yard pass to Singletary, taking the Texans to the 30. But penalties – including two false starts and intentional grounding by Stroud – derailed the drive. Houston elected to kick a field goal: Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn drilled a 50-yard kick to tie the game at three.
Baltimore took over. The first quarter ended with Jackson picking up 23 yards with his legs. Little by little, the Ravens built up their ground game, outrunning the Texans on several plays. Soon, Jackson took off again, rushing for 20 yards down to the two-yard line for first and goal. Then he threw to Nelson Agholor for the touchdown.
The Ravens took a 10-3 lead with 9:14 left in the half. But neither they nor the Texans could score on their ensuing possessions. The Texans’ drive was again marred by penalties, this time for false start and delay of game. But the Ravens, too, got flagged (for encroachment and false start). After Jackson got sacked on fourth down by linebacker Christian Harris, the Ravens elected to punt. Texans punt returner Steven Sims ran right up the middle and kept going, running for a 67-yard touchdown. An extra-point kick tied the game again, this time at 10, with 4:17 left.
In the final two minutes of the half, Stroud hit wide receiver Nico Collins on back-to-back plays for a total of 45 yards. Already near the 30, Houston had a chance to score. After two incompletions by Stroud, Houston settled for a 47-yard field goal attempt. But Ka’imi Fairbairn’s kick went wide right, leaving the score tied at 10 at halftime.
Baltimore wasted little time advancing down the field when the third quarter began. Tight end Isaiah Likely fought his way inside the 30-yard line. Jackson threw to Likely for another first down then tossed to Bateman for first down near the 15-yard line. And then, Action Jackson: Lamar scampered his way to a touchdown, clutching the ball as he rolled into the end zone. Baltimore now led 17-10.
The Ravens defense kept Houston out of the end zone (mostly due to linebacker Roquan Smith) and Lamar lifted its offense when it seemed stuck at midfield on 4th and 1. They needed one yard; Jackson got 14 with a daring scramble. Later, a first-down run by running back Justice Hill was overturned because he stepped out of bounds. But he picked up those two yards on the very next play, during which Texans cornerback Steven Nelson got injured and went to the sideline.
Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard was flagged for a neutral zone infraction shortly before the end of the third quarter. Just minutes into the fourth, Jackson hurled a pass to wide receiver Isaiah Likely, who made the catch while spinning in midair. Touchdown Ravens. They now led the Texans 24-10.
As they approached the midpoint of the fourth quarter, the Ravens ran away with the game — literally. Jackson took off for his second rushing touchdown of the night, running right into the end zone and into the tunnel.
When he emerged, it was clear that the Ravens were likely headed to victory — and that the Texans’ magical season was over. On their next drive, they were besieged by penalties: first for holding, then for a false start. Houston chose to go for it on fourth down, but Stroud’s pass fell incomplete (broken up by Ravens cornerback Arthur Maulet). The Texans were forced to punt.
Later, Justin Tucker drilled a field goal to make it 34-10 — the final score. Lamar Jackson earned his first-ever home playoff win, completing 77% of his passes while throwing two touchdowns and running for two more. The Baltimore Ravens advance to the AFC Championship Game; the Houston Texans are eliminated. Not only did the offense not score once, Houston racked up 11 penalties (a franchise record).
Stroud appeared dejected at a post-game press conference. “These types of losses suck,” he mumbled. “That’s a great Ravens team over there. They deserve to win.” He had high praise for Jackson as a quarterback (“He’s a hell of a quarterback; he can run, he can throw. He’s definitely an underrated thrower”) but lamented mistakes by the Texans: “Too many penalties; too many missed assignments.”
Coach Demeco Ryans concurred. “You can’t have the penalties going against a really tough defense,” he said. “We couldn’t get the running game going, and then they were able to add pressure on us consistently. We just couldn’t find a rhythm.” He, too, praised Jackson’s performance: “Credit to Lamar [Jackson]. He made a ton of great plays. Probably, that’s why he’s the MVP.”