The League

Desmond Bieler
Occasional Blogger, Constant Blowhard

Desmond Bieler

An assistant news editor at The Washington Post

Baltimore at Houston, Week 2



Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco survived his Week 1 trial by fire. Now let's see if he survives Week 2's trial by Mario Williams.

A season-ending shoulder injury to Kyle "Pro" Boller and a very badly timed tonsil infection by Troy Smith thrust Flacco into the starting lineup somewhat ahead of schedule, and the former division I-AA Delaware Blue Hen acquitted himself fairly well, completing 15 of 29 passes for 129 yards and no turnovers. In fact, Flacco was the only quarterback who started and finished a game last Sunday who didn't commit a turnover or get sacked (Donovan McNabb was subbed in for toward the end of the Eagles' blowout win). He even threw in a 38-yard touchdown run and a key block on Mark Clayton's 42-yard scoring jaunt.

But staying upright this week will be a greater challenge, largely because of the presence of Williams in the Houston lineup. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2006 draft started to justify the controversial selection last season, finishing with 14 sacks, including 10 between Weeks 11 and 16. Last week against the Steelers, he was one of the few Texans who earned his paycheck, especially on defense, as he picked up two sacks and six tackles. Williams also forced Ben Roethlisberger into a fumble and inflicted a shoulder injury on the quarterback, so Flacco's epic one-game sack- and turnover-free streak is in jeopardy.

On the other side of the ball, the Texans have to be concerned about how they are going to get yards on the ground against the Ravens and make life a little easier for already-beleaguered quarterback Matt Schaub. Baltimore's first opponent, the Bengals, gave Chris Perry 18 of the team's 23 carries, and to thank them for the opportunity, Perry gained all of 37 yards. The Ravens also made life miserable for quarterback Carson Palmer en route to holding Cincy's normally robust offense to 154 total net yards and eight first downs, a puny output that, in the words of Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, "doesn't happen in this league." That can't be music to the ears of Schaub, whose three turnovers and failure to make big plays (for his team, at least) had the Houston press questioning his job security after Week 1. But Kubiak offered a vote of confidence, saying, "I believe in the kid." So Schaub has that going for him. That, and not having to face Mario Williams.

update: This game has been rescheduled because of the threat from Hurricane Ike. It will be played on Monday night at 8:30 and televised locally. Reaction from the teams to this turn of events ranged from stoic -- "We understand completely why the change had to be made," said Ravens Coach John Harbaugh -- to positively enthusiastic, at least as far as Texans tight end Owen Daniels was concerned. Turns out Daniels has a degree in atmospheric and oceanic sciences and hopes to be a television weatherman one day. Who knew?

update to the update: Bye-week madness! Hurricane Ike mauled Reliant Stadium in Houston, so this game will be played Nov. 9, which was the Ravens' bye week. The Texans were supposed to play Cincinnati that week, but they'll play Baltimore instead and play the Bengals on Oct. 26, when Houston was supposed to have a bye. In turn, the Bengals will change their bye week to Nov. 9. The Texans don't have another home game until Oct. 5, and one hopes the stadium can be repaired in time for that.

By Desmond Bieler  |  September 11, 2008; 2:00 PM ET  | Category:  Post Gameday Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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