by Marc Vandermeer
The natives are restless. And it’s understandable. After all, the Texans blew a chance to have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Then, with a shot to get hot in the post season, they fell hard, at New England and watched the Ravens knock off the top two AFC seeds on their way to New Orleans.
The Texans kept insisting (me too) that momentum was a victory away. They were right. The problem was, the Ravens proved it, not Houston.
Baltimore had lost four out of its last five games heading into the playoffs. Not good. No momentum. No chance.
The Ravens took out Indy and Denver before stopping Tom Brady. Now they’re the toast of the AFC.
Concerns about Baltimore in the regular season look silly now.
Lose to the Texans by 30? Didn’t matter. Lose to the Charlie Batch-led Steelers at home? No problem. Lose badly to Denver at home? Who cares?
Gary Kubiak said “you want to be really good at the end.” That sums up the Ravens. And also the Texans, who were far from their best when it mattered most. That’s why the coach was having none of it when media wanted him to comment on occupying the top seed. None of it matters until January.
Joe Flacco is getting anointed now as ‘elite.’ Whatever that is. He has played phenomenally well in the post season with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Flacco bashers should have given it a rest a long time ago but it took until now to quiet them down. Of course they’ll be back if he throws a couple of picks in the Super Bowl.
Matt Schaub’s regular season numbers are better than Flacco’s. Yards, completion percentage, it’s all there. Even Schaub’s yards per attempt number is higher than that of big-armed Joe. Look it up.
But Schaub is home getting torched for not making enough plays down the stretch. It’s fair to criticize him for that. He’ll be the first to tell you he has to play better ‘at the end’ next year. However, he’s not alone in needing to step up play at the most crucial time of year.
And barring injury or father time wearing down his skills, he will lead this team back to the playoffs with a shot to do things better next time.
But you’re knocking on the wrong door if you think improved QB play is all that’s needed to make the difference next year. The defense can’t be giving up 41 points in a playoff game. Special teams can’t give up touchdowns like the one in Indy for the go ahead score in the second half. All three phases have to elevate their game.
The Ravens, who were smashed by the Texans 43-13 on Battle Red Day, serve as the latest inspiration for every playoff team with up-hill odds. They won two huge games on the road. And the AFC and NFC top seeds went a combined 1-2 in the post season.
It took five playoff trips in this ‘new’ era of Ravens football to get to the Super Bowl. They were called chokers. Flacco was ridiculed. They kept improving the team and showing up in the post season party. It finally paid off.
That’s what the Texans need to do. Keep improving, keep getting into the playoffs.
As we all know, getting to the post season can be extremely difficult. The next step is even tougher. What matters most is being great in January.
Easier said than done.
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