Originally written on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 11/19/14
Last weekend’s victory over the Baltimore Ravens left many fans with plenty to be optimistic about. Just one week after losing defensive captain Brian Cushing to a season ending ACL injury and getting absolutely beat down by the Green Bay Packers, the Texans bounced back in a big way to seize soul ownership of the title “Best in the AFC” by taking down the now second place Ravens. Those who watched the Texans-Ravens game were probably pleasantly surprised to see a few of last year’s major contributors play their best game of this season, and in most cases, really show up for the first time all year. Many of these players reside on the Texan defense, which apparently got the message that all eleven men needed to step up in a big way in the absence of Cushing. The two most notable in this category are OLB Connor Barwin and DE Antonio Smith. Barwin, who led the Texans in 2011 with 11.5 sacks, finally recorded his first of this season in game number 7. Smith, who came into the game with two sacks, picked up another two on consecutive plays in the third quarter. Aside from the sacks (which I believe to be an overrated stat), both Barwin and Smith were all over the field, constantly putting pressure on Ravens QB Joe Flacco to the tune of six combined QB hits (separate from sacks), while making their presence felt in the run game. As opposed to the first six games of the season, both Barwin and Smith were frequently in on plays and were shedding blocks and around the football all afternoon. There is no stat to measure that sort of hustle/activity, simply an eye test that both emphatically passed for the first time all year.  Plenty of defensive players stepped up and had great games, and one cannot overlook CB Johnathan Joseph’s overall play after several weeks of subpar performances. And while the shut down corner plays an iatrical part in the Wade Phillips 3-4 defense, games are won and lost with the front seven. Despite the Texans’ 6-1 record, the D on a whole has been average per their talent. Certain guys have stepped up and played well all season, such as DE J.J. Watt, Cushing, and S Daneal Manning. But Sunday marked the first time that it genuinely appeared to be a group effort. Aside from Barwin and Smith, players such as OLB Brooks Reed, rookie OLB Whitney Mercilus, and S Glover Quin all had their best games of the season. Again, stats only partially do their performances justice, it’s an eye test of watching one man beat the opposing man lined up in front of him play in and play out. The Texans did this across the board against the Ravens. Given that the Ravens have one of, it not the best, offenses the Texans D has faced all season, I’m willing to go on record and say this was the best defensive performance of the 2012 season.  As the season progresses past this week’s bye, the Texans D will have to continue putting up games like they did this past Sunday. The schedule only gets tougher for the Texans after the bye, including a stretch starting November 11 at Chicago where the Texans will play four out of five games on the road. But if the defense continues its cohesive play into the second half, the Texans will be in the drivers seat in the AFC, and perhaps the entire NFL. Check out other great articles at Sports Media 101. var switchTo5x=true; stLight.options({publisher:''});
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Australian cricket player dies from head injuries

Wrigley Field bleacher renovation may be delayed

Yankees wanted Rollins but Phillies' price was too high

Pop misses game for medical reasons; Messina takes over

John Beilein upset with ESPN for late start time to game

Tyson Chandler felt like Knicks' scapegoat at times

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Fred Jackson has 'no respect' for Donte Whitner

Devon Still responds to unpaid child support allegations

Diamondbacks sign Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas

Josh Gordon felt alienated by some in Browns organization

Jerry Jones: I'm a big admirer of Robert Griffin III

Raiola fined for uneccesarily striking Pats' Zach Moore

CM Punk opens up about leaving WWE, says he'll never return

Steelers turned down chance to be called 'America's Team'

Report: Small chance Raiders-Rams could be moved to Indy

Todd Gurley begins rehab after surgery on knee for torn ACL

Brodeur to practice with Blues

OSU player posts Michigan player's girlfriend as his 'WCW'

Jim Harbaugh's family may not eat turkey thanks to NBC

Ole Miss' The Grove threatened by Mississippi State fan

Is it time for the Redskins to move on from Robert Griffin III?

Top 10 fantasy football turkeys for 2014

WATCH: Coyotes lose in ugly fashion, score own goal in OT

Warriors are having tons of fun on team plane

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

CM Punk opens up about leaving WWE

Wrigley renovation may be delayed

Steelers could have been America's Team

John Beilein upset with ESPN

Should Washington move on from RG3?

Dominic Raiola fined for cheap shots

Game of the week: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos

Rose leaves with injury again

WATCH: Pierce signs for fan during game

Report: McCoy to start over RG3

Braxton Miller headed to Oregon?

10 most one-sided college football rivalries

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.