Okay, so it's not mixed martial arts, but if there's one thing MMA Maniacs love to discuss as much as their beloved sport, it's definitely the NFL playoffs.
Today (Sun., Jan. 15, 2012) features the final two games from the AFC and NFC Divisional Round. The fun kicked off yesterday as we watched the New Orleans Saints fall to the San Francisco 49ers in an instant classic before Tom Brady and the New England Patriots crushed Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
Today's opening game features the Houston Texans traveling east to take on the Baltimore Ravens, who were undefeated at home this year, compiling a perfect 8-0 record at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Both teams boast strong defenses, as Houston was ranked second in the league while Baltimore was ranked third. The match-up to watch, though, is the Texans rushing offense against the Ravens rushing defense. Houston, with Arian Foster, ran for 153 yards per game throughout the year, good for second in the NFL. Baltimore, meanwhile, gave up just 92 yards per game on the ground, also good for second in the league. Something's got to give.
It's going to be a lot of fun, folks.
So here it is, Maniacs; an open thread and discussion to keep your fellow gridiron guys and gals abreast of the Texans vs. Ravens score, as well as a sounding board for any and all football trash talk. Pics, videos, links -- it's all fair game today.
Score updates (with analysis) as they happen after the jump.
HOUSTON TEXANS VS. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Texans-3, Ravens-0: Houston took the opening kickoff 60 yards to set up a Neil Rackers 40-yard field goal. Manufacturing points is likely something the Texans are going to have to do plenty of to win this game and so far so good.
Ravens-7, Texans-3: After Baltimore failed to advance the ball at all on their first offensive possession, they caught a big break when Jacoby Jones muffed the punt return and they recovered at the Houston six yard line. A few plays later, Joe Flacco found Kris Wilson on play-action for a the touchdown to give Baltimore the lead.
Ravens-10, Texans-3: Baltimore went 30 yards in six plays but most of that came on a 21-yard pass from Flacco to Anquan Boldin, who made an incredible leaping catch along the sidelines to set the Ravens up in Houston territory. The drive stalled quickly, though, and Flacco and company dodged a bullet when he fumbled on third and four but one of his linemen was able to recover. Billy Cundiff nailed the ensuing 48-yard field goal to stretch the lead to seven.
Ravens-17, Texans-3: T.J. Yates won the award for "Dumbest Interception of the Postseason" when he keyed on Andre Johnson and refused to look for anyone else, despite the fact that Andre was blanketed by Lardarius Webb, who picked off the pass and had Baltimore in business at the Houston 34. Just five plays later, Flacco found Boldin in the end zone. With the Texans complete inability to advance the ball, it doesn't look good early.
The first quarter drew to a close with both sides sweating out potential injuries to top stars. On Baltimore's side, Safety Ed Reed went up high for an interception and landed hard on the cold, unforgiving grass on his hip. He was visibly shaken and had to be taken out of the game for the next play. On that next play, Arian Foster caught a dump off and took it for 16 yards and a first down on third and three. Unfortunately, he came up limping and hurried off the field with what looked to be an ankle injury.
END OF FIRST QUARTER
Ravens-17, Texans-6: Foster made his way back into the game and actually managed to squirt his way downfield on a 19-yard run. A 17-yard pass from Yates to Owen Daniels gave Houston first and 10 on the Baltimore 13-yard line but the drive stalled at the 10 and the Texans were forced to boot in another Neil Rackers field goal. The good news is both Foster, as stated, and Ed Reed came back into the game during this series.
Ravens-17, Texans-13: Houston just put together an incredible 12-play, 87-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run from Arian Foster, who went bonkers on this drive, picking up 57 yards by himself. The guy is going nuts and doing what he can to put this team on his back and carry them to the AFC Championship Game. Here's his stat line so far -- 15 carries, 95 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 catches, 29 yards. Beast mode.
We head to halftime with the Texans having stolen all the momentum. Following their big clock-eating 87-yard drive, the Ravens were able to move the ball downfield into Houston territory but stalled when Flacco was sacked on third down by J.J. Watt, the rookie defensive end who has been terrorizing offensive lines all year. It's a close game but I should think the Ravens will be much better to start the third quarter. They were dead tired on defense, frantically trying to catch up to Foster and the Texans' running game. A rest should do them a world of good.
END OF SECOND QUARTER
The third quarter came and went with neither team able to put any points on the board despite ample opportunities. The Texans missed a 50-yard field goal when Neil Rackers donked one off the crossbar and the Ravens failed to punch it in with Ray Rice on fourth and goal from the half yard line. Houston punted the ball away on the ensuing drive and Baltimore is already in Texans' territory to start the fourth. 15 minutes to go until Foxborough next Sunday afternoon. Who has it in them to take this game?
END OF THIRD QUARTER
Ravens-20, Texans-13: Baltimore managed enough offense to go down and kick in a field goal to puch their lead to seven points. Houston is driving, though, on their very next possession with just two minutes to go in the game. Time for the Ravens defense to earn its paycheck.
FINAL SCORE -- Ravens-20, Texans-13: Houston was driving and had the ball at the Baltimore 38-yard line but Yates once again made a boneheaded play and threw into double coverage, one half of which consisted of the best ball-hawking safety in the game, Ed Reed. Unsurprisingly, he came down with the football. Baltimore failed to run the clock out but eventually managed to stop a last gasp Hail Mary to earn their trip to New England to play the Patriots for the right to advance to the Super Bowl. See you next week, folks!