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09/22/2013 5:44 PM EDT
Ravens get defensive in 30-9 win over Texans
BALTIMORE 30, HOUSTON 9

By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Ravens had scored three points in
27 minutes and trailed the unbeaten Houston Texans. Ray Rice was
unavailable, the offense was struggling and the usually
boisterous crowd was eerily quiet.

The defending Super Bowl champs were in dire need of a
game-changing play, and Daryl Smith was there to provide it.

Smith stepped in front of tight end Owen Daniels, intercepted
Matt Schaub's pass and took it 37 yards for a touchdown to
propel the Ravens to a 30-9 victory Sunday.

Less than two minutes after Smith's pivotal TD, Tandon Doss
scored on an 82-yard punt return. And just like that, the Ravens
(2-1) were on their way to a lopsided victory against one of the
AFC's top teams.

"Two huge plays by the defense and the special teams," coach
John Harbaugh said.

The Ravens (2-1) won despite playing without Rice for the first
time since 2008. Watching from the sideline with a strained left
hip flexor, the three-time Pro Bowl running back was replaced by
Bernard Pierce, who ran for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Baltimore got only four first downs and 65 yards of offense in
the first half, yet went to the locker room with a 17-9 lead.

"A guy like Daryl makes a huge play and turns the game entirely
around," Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said.

Houston (2-1) led 6-3 before the interception return with 2:39
left in the first half. After a three-and-out by the Texans,
Doss eluded several tacklers during his first career punt return
for a touchdown.

"Over a four-play sequence, we give them 14 points," Texans
coach Gary Kubiak said. "That's where the game turned, and we
were playing catch-up all game long."

Houston compiled only 107 yards of offense in getting shut out
in the second half. After scoring seven touchdowns in their
first two games, the Texans were limited to three field goals by
Randy Bullock.

Give much of the credit to the Ravens defense, which has not
allowed a touchdown in eight quarters since a season-opening
49-27 defeat in Denver. With at least a half-dozen new faces,
the unit remains a work in progress.

But this was a significant step.

"We do feel we're as far along as we could possibly be with this
group," Harbaugh said. "We haven't given up the big plays."

Schaub went 25 for 35 for 194 yards and an interception. He
played much of the second half without wide receiver Andre
Johnson, who bruised his shin.

"I did not think he could run the way he needs to play, so we
took him out," Kubiak said.

Schaub's most lamentable throw was the one that Smith took the
other way.

"Poor decision on my part," Schaub said. "You got to be better
in that situation, especially late in the half."

Joe Flacco was 16 of 24 for 171 yards to help the Ravens avenge
last year's 43-13 blowout loss in Houston.

The Texans fell to 0-4 in Baltimore, including a defeat in the
2011 postseason. Houston came in as a slight favorite, but the
Ravens again proved formidable at home, where they're 35-7 since
the start of the 2008 season.

The game featured the return of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, who
starred for years with Baltimore. Lewis was inducted into the
Ravens Ring of Honor at halftime, and Reed made his debut with
Houston at free safety after signing with the Texans as a free
agent in March.

Reed long has been part of great defensive performances by the
Ravens. This time, he was on the opposite end.

"Baltimore has a great defense," Reed said. "I told the guys
coming into this game, defensively they're going to know every
move that you're making, everything that you're doing."

Smith, Lewis' replacement at middle linebacker, knew all about
Schaub's tendency to look for his tight end in those situations.

"It was something we saw on film during the week," he said. "We
got pressure on the play and I jumped the route."

It was his first interception return for a score.

"It's like a dream; it's hazy," he said. "I remember catching it
and running as fast as I can."

Notes: Ravens DT Terrence Cody sprained his knee in the first
quarter and did not return. ... Ravens backup RB Shaun Draughn
sprained his ankle. ... Houston was denied in its bid to go 3-0
for a second straight season. ... Smith became the 19th player
in Ravens history to score on an INT return.

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