The Houston Texans started their season on the road Sunday, visiting M&T Bank Stadium to face the Baltimore Ravens. It was the first game of the 2023 NFL season for either team. But it was memorable for several other reasons — some historic.
Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, who was drafted in April, played his first regular-season NFL game. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson began his sixth season with Baltimore after signing a highly publicized contract extension. Stroud and Jackson are just two of more than a dozen QBs who made history Sunday: 14 Black quarterbacks started games in Week 1 — the most ever. Significantly, Baltimore made history another way — the Ravens are believed to be the first NFL team with an all-Black quarterback room.
The Ravens came up empty on their opening drive; Jackson got sacked by Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard on third down. The Texans’ drive got off to an interesting start: Stroud caught his own pass — the first one he threw — after it was deflected by Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen. That drive ended when Stroud took a fourth-down sack, also by Queen.
Houston turned the ball over on downs, and Baltimore got the ball near the 30-yard line. But the Ravens couldn’t take advantage of that field position because Jackson was intercepted by Texans cornerback Steven Nelson.
Baltimore had better luck on the next drive. Jackson handed off to running back J.K. Dobbins — who went airborne, leaping over the goal line into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown. (That would be the highlight of the game for Dobbins, who left the game early after suffering a torn Achilles. He’s out for the season.)
The Texans’ first three drives went for only nine yards; their fourth went for 67, with Stroud successfully converting two third downs. But after the drive stalled, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked a 35-yard field goal. That made it 7-3 with four minutes left in the half.
After the Ravens took over, Lamar Jackson evaded two defenders on 2nd down, taking off for a 13-yard run. But the Ravens’ drive stalled out, and they were forced to punt. The Texans took over. Referees flagged Ravens defensive tackle Travis Jones for roughing the passer after he threw Stroud to the ground. Houston took advantage of that penalty: Ka’imi Fairbairn hit a 38-yard field goal as time expired. Baltimore led Houston 7-6 at halftime.
Stroud’s beatdowns continued in the second half: Stroud was sacked by defensive tackle Justin Madubuike to open the third quarter. After the Ravens took over, they gained ground after a 19-yard scramble by receiver Zay Flowers and an 18-yard catch by receiver Rashod Bateman. Later, running back Justice Hill rushed in for the touchdown. Refs called Houston for a defensive penalty, allowing the Ravens to go for a two-point conversion. Running back Gus Edwards ran in for two extra points, giving his team a 15-6 lead. Hill later rushed for a second touchdown, making it 22-6 with about five minutes left in the third.
Subsequently, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made his first catch as a Raven. The crowd roared its approval for Beckham, who hadn’t played in over a year due to injury. But the celebration didn’t last long. On the very next play, Jackson fumbled the snap; Houston’s M.J. Stewart recovered.
The Texans gained momentum as they took over near the start of the fourth quarter. A facemask penalty on Madubuike gave the Texans 15 yards. But Stroud got slung down by Roquan Smith, losing 12 yards on the play. The Texans ended up settling for yet another field goal: Fairbairn booted a 36-yard kick.
Texans rookie linebacker Will Anderson sacked Lamar Jackson on 3rd down. Anderson (drafted in April) is the first Texans rookie in NFL history to get a sack on Week 1.
But on the Texans’ next drive, Ravens linebacker David Ojabo strip-sacked CJ Stroud, knocking the ball out of his hands. The Ravens recovered.
Baltimore got to work immediately when Jackson hit Odell Beckham for an incredible 29-yard catch. In his first game since last year’s Super Bowl, Beckham took the Ravens to first and goal. Unfortunately, Ravens center Tyler Lindenbaum suffered a leg injury on the next play and had to leave the game. (Left tackle Ronnie Staley and safety Marcus Williams also had to leave the game; they did not return. Texans safety Jalen Pitre had to be taken to a local hospital after his injury; it was later reported that Pitre suffered a bruised lung.)
Lindenbaum recovered enough to walk off the field, but his injury (and the Texans defense) stopped Baltimore’s momentum. The Ravens settled for a field goal from kicker Justin Tucker, who helped them take a 25-9 lead.
Stroud got sacked again on the next drive. It was a brutal game for Stroud, who got sacked five times and suffered 10 hits. But Stroud was undeterred in his postgame press conference: “I’ll be OK. I’mma keep getting up. I’ll be alright. It ain’t my first time getting hit.”
The same was true for Lamar Jackson, who got sacked four times Sunday. Like Stroud, he ended the game without a single passing touchdown. But Jackson, one of the most battered QBs in the league, was grateful to just get through it. Jackson tweeted postgame that he was “rusty as [blank]. But thank you, God.”
Jackson showed gratitude after a big win: the Ravens defeated the Texans 25-9. And even that was historic: according to CBS Sports, it’s the first game ever to end with that particular score.