BALTIMORE—Take the ball away from the other guys, hold onto it yourself, and make sure nothing happens to Justin Tucker.
That, apparently, is the formula the Baltimore Ravens intend to use to reach the playoffs.
Terrell Suggs led an aggressive defence that kept Houston out of the end zone for the final 51 minutes, and the Ravens forced two turnovers in the final five minutes to secure a 23-16 victory last night.
“If the game's on the line, you've got to be comfortable when your defence is out there,” Suggs said.
“It feels good.”
After Suggs stripped the ball from quarterback Tom Savage and Baltimore recovered, Tucker kicked his third field goal with 2:53 to go for a seven-point cushion.
Anthony Levine then intercepted a Savage pass to clinch it.
The Ravens picked off two passes to increase their NFL-leading total to 18, and their three takeaways upped their league-best total to 26.
Asked to assess Savage's performance, Texans' coach Bill O'Brien replied: “Can't turn it over.”
“I thought he did some good things but he turned it over too many times,” O'Brien added.
Baltimore, in turn, did not commit a turnover.
Suggs had two sacks, Alex Collins ran for 60 yards and a touchdown, and punter Sam Koch threw perhaps Baltimore's most significant pass of the game.
Ravens' coach John Harbaugh called for a fake punt, converted a fourth down with a rarely-used pitchout, and had quarterback Joe Flacco line up at wide receiver on a play in which Collins took a direct snap.
“You always have them in the game plan," Flacco noted. "It's just the flow of the game.”
All of this added spice to a stagnant offence that protected the ball and did just enough to win.
Flacco went 20-for-32 for 141 yards.
The Ravens (6-5) won consecutive games for the first time since they opened the season at 2-0. They now are above .500 for the first time since Oct. 8 and tied with Buffalo for the final AFC wild-card spot.
Houston (4-7) has lost four of five.
Savage, who has started the last four games in place of injured DeShaun Watson, completed 22-of-37 passes for 252 yards. But he gave the ball away three times, and that was the difference.
“You're not going to win any games when you turn it over and you don't get any turnovers,” O'Brien said.
Aided by three penalties against Baltimore, the Texans travelled the length of the field and went up 7-0 on a four-yard touchdown run by Lamar Miller.
That would be Houston's last sniff of the end zone.
“It's hard to run the ball on these guys," O'Brien noted. "You try to stay balanced and we couldn't really run it.”
Early in the second quarter, after a third-down incompletion, the Ravens appeared poised to punt for the fourth time in four series.
But Koch lofted a pass to Chris Moore—a play that went for 22 yards to the Houston 19.
That set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Javorius Allen, who reached the end zone with a healthy push from several of his teammates.
An interception by Tony Jefferson was followed by a fourth-and-one gamble in which Collins took a quick pitch and ran for 29 yards to the Houston 8.
Collins covered the final eight yards on the following play for a 14-7 lead.
The teams traded field goals in the final two minutes before halftime.
Suggs joked about how former Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis loved pouncing on loose balls.
“Every time I'm ready to get the ball, I can hear Ray Lewis say, 'Sizzle, get the ball. I want the ball,'” Suggs said.
“Ray Lewis, he probably made a tackle tonight. He's always gotten credit.”
Baltimore has won 10-straight games in prime time, and is 12-1 under the lights since Harbaugh took over in 2008.