An examination of four hot issues from the Texans' 30-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
That pivotal punt return: Though Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith's 37-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Ravens their first lead of the game, Tandon Doss' punt return for a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the first half might have been more deflating for the Texans. Doss returned the punt 82 yards, after catching the punt long before any Texans player was near him. Three Texans -- Shiloh Keo, Bryan Braman and D.J. Swearinger -- had positioning to tackle him, but Doss sliced through all of them. "We had three guys free around him," Texans special teams coach Joe Marciano told Mark Berman of Fox 26. "He made them all miss. To me it's inexcusable." There was some good from the Texans' special teams in Baltimore. Shane Lechler's start was just as strong as his previous games have been, pinning the Ravens at their own 7-yard line and their own 1-yard line early. Kicker Randy Bullock also made all three of his field goal attempts. But the bad seemed to be a continuation of last season. From ESPN Stats & Information: "Entering Sunday [and before Doss’ touchdown], the Texans' special teams unit has cost Houston 52.4 expected points since the start of 2012, more than 10 expected points worse than any other team."
Divergent snap counts: The Texans kept Ed Reed on a snap count, but he still played most of the game. Reed played in 73 percent of the Texans' defensive snaps. Seven players played in every single snap on their side of the ball: the five offensive linemen, rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins and safety Danieal Manning.
Flipping roles: The Ravens' five longest plays were all longer than any one of Houston's. Four of them came in the third quarter during the Texans' only defensive dip of the game. All of the Ravens' 10 longest offensive plays came after the first quarter and seven of them after halftime, which you'd expect. Meanwhile, only four of the Texans' 10 longest offensive plays came after halftime.
Penalties a killer: They came at damaging times, but the sheer number of penalties the Texans had Sunday in Baltimore was staggering: 14 penalties for 113 yards. Coach Gary Kubiak said the lack of discipline disappointed him more than anything else. Defensive end Antonio Smith said those penalties came from pressing too much, wanting too badly to make a play. That was a theme Reed touched on, as well. Reed said it was important for the Texans to remember to just do their jobs, rather than thinking about making a play. Whatever the reason, Ravens penalties helped the Texans early and their own crushed them late. The six defensive penalties in the second half helped move the Ravens down the field. It was the biggest issue on a Texans defense that otherwise had a strong day, allowing just 236 yards.