Originally written on Ravens Football Machine  |  Last updated 11/11/14

T. J. Yates ... not a QB name you'd have expected to stand between the Ravens and the next advancing round in the playoffs... But there he is, the 6-3, 195 rookie out of North Carolina, calling the shots for the red-hot Houston Texans...

The Houston Texans are coming back to Baltimore. The AFC South champions took down the Cincinnati Bengals, 31-10, Saturday in Houston, setting up a Texans-Ravens matchup for next Sunday in the divisional round of the playoffs. It’s a rematch from Week 6 of the season, where the Ravens won 29-14 at M&T Bank Stadium.

“They’re a good team, got a good defense, good running game, young quarterback,” Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda said earlier this week.

The Texans, however, are a much different team from that early-season showdown. They are on their third quarterback – rookie T.J. Yates – because starter Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart both suffered season-ending injuries earlier in the year. Schaub played against the Ravens on Oct. 16.

Yates has played in the Texans’ last seven games, and he did exactly what he was asked to do Saturday against Cincinnati. He finished 11-of-20 passing for 159 yards and one touchdown, hitting on some key throws and protecting the football by not turning it over.

The Texans have a strong ground game with running back Arian Foster, so they didn’t have to put the game entirely on Yates’ shoulders. Foster had 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, taking some of the pressure off the rookie quarterback. “The way we ran the ball today, it would be hard to stop us,” Yates said on NBC after the game.

Houston had the running attack working, which allowed the Texans to milk the clock in the fourth quarter once they built up a two-score lead.

Houston also has one of the NFL’s best defenses, which it put on display against Cincinnati. Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton was intercepted three times and one of Houston’s touchdowns came on an interception return by defensive tackle J.J. Watt just before halftime, giving Houston the lead that they would never relinquish.

Even though Houston had the second-best ranked defense during the regular season, the Ravens had success against it in their first meeting. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 305 yards and running back Ray Rice topped 100 yards on the ground.

The Ravens defense also effectively shut down Foster, holding him to less than 50 rushing yards.

The first time around, the Ravens didn’t have to worry about the Texans talented wide receiver Andre Johnson, who was out because of a hamstring injury. He missed nine games during the regular season because of two separate hamstring injuries, but he played at full strength against the Bengals and was a big factor, catching five passes for 90 yards and one touchdown.

Johnson is one of the leaders of the Texans, which have now won their first playoff game in franchise history.

“This team believes,” Foster said during a postgame interview.” I’ve never been around a team like this before. We don’t need anybody else to believe, we’re going to do that for everybody else.”

Should Ravens fans be concerned about the Texans? Of course. Look at what Denver and Tim Tebow just did to Pittsburgh... But at least (unlike the Steelers against the Broncos) the Ravens will have home field advantage in this one. If T. J. Yates is thinking of pulling an upset performance against the Ravens defense, he'll have to get past the "Purple Wall" of fan noise and enthusiasm at M & T Bank Stadium. The "12th Man" effect of one of the highest decibel counts in the NFL will put Yates to the ultimate test of what has been so far a miraculous year for a rookie backup QB.


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