Ravens turn over Texans

Quarterback Joe Flacco

The Baltimore Ravens relied on key turnovers to topple the Houston Texans 20-13 and advance to the AFC Championship game for the second time in four seasons.

Quarterback Joe Flacco threw short touchdown passes to tight end Kris Wilson and wide receiver Anquan Boldin to help give the Ravens a 17-3 lead in the opening quarter.

However they were made to hold on in the end as Houston fought back impressively, cutting the gap to four points by the end of the half.

In the end, though, turnovers cost the Texans dear – rookie quarterback T.J. Yates threw three interceptions, while a Jacoby Jones fumble in the first quarter leading to his team conceding seven points.

Baltimore’s reward is a trip to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots for the right to represent the division in the Super Bowl.

Their offense next Sunday is likely to need more than the 227 total yards it managed at home against Houston – Ray Rice was held to just 60 on the ground on 21 carries, including being stopped on a fourth-and-goal attempt.

First catch

They went three-and-out on their first possession but were gifted the chance to have another go when returner Jones inexplicably tried to field a punt deep inside his own territory, resulting in rookie Jimmy Smith recovering it at the two-yard line to set up Wilson’s first catch of the season.

A Billy Cundiff field goal made it 10-3 and before the quarter was out the Ravens had scored again, Flacco hooking up on a 10-yarder with Boldin.

Neil Rackers’ second field goal made it 17-6 before Arian Foster – who finished with 132 rushing yards, becoming the first player to rush for 100 yards in the play-offs against the Ravens – went in from close range.

From then on defenses dominated, the only further points coming when Cundiff nailed a 44-yarder to put the hosts seven points clear with just under three minutes to play.

Houston drove to the Ravens’ 38 on the ensuing possession but Ed Reed intercepted a Yates pass. The safety also broke up a hail mary in the final few seconds, making sure Baltimore would finish with a 9-0 record at home.

Yates completed 17 of his 35 pass attempts for 184 yards but was hurt by his hat-trick of picks. Flacco’s stats were similar – 14 of 27 for 173 yards – but he crucially made sure not to turn over the ball.

“We knew what was coming,” Ray Lewis said afterwards. “This team (Houston) was so fiery and they’ve got so many pieces. I take my hat off to them for the way they came out and fought today.

“More importantly, I take my hat off to my team. We knew it was going to be tough. They made some plays, we made some plays. In the end, we made the play that counted.”