Ravens keep it ugly in beating Texans to remain in the playoff hunt

BALTIMORE -- The boos from the fans who remained at M&T Bank Stadium resonated loudly midway through the fourth quarter. One fan could be heard screaming, "Marty [Mornhinweg, offensive coordinator], you're fired."

Yet, like it or not -- or believe it or not -- the Baltimore Ravens still have the inside track for the No. 6 and final playoff seed in the AFC.

The Ravens beat the beat-up Houston Texans, 23-16, on Monday night despite playing ugly on offense and sloppy on defense.

No one in the locker room expressed satisfaction over the win. There wasn't any chest-pounding for outlasting a Houston team that was without J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson. The prevailing sentiment was the Ravens did what they had to do in order to win a game.

Baltimore could only breathe a sigh of relief with 4 minutes, 44 seconds remaining, when linebacker Terrell Suggs stripped Texans quarterback Tom Savage of the ball. Up until that point, the Ravens struggled to complete passes downfield and struggled to cover Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (which led to numerous penalties).

But, in the year of mediocrity in the AFC, the Ravens improved to 6-5 and took over the No. 6 seed from the Buffalo Bills with five weeks remaining. Baltimore holds the tiebreaker over Buffalo with a better conference record (5-3).

"Our guys made the plays they had to make to win the game," coach John Harbaugh said. "That's what we needed to do, and that's what we did."

The Ravens' three forced turnovers -- including two in the fourth quarter -- and a fake punt by Sam Koch in the first half saved an offense that continued to sputter. Joe Flacco was 20-of-32 for 141 yards against a Texans defense known for giving up big pass plays. Baltimore was 3-of-14 on third downs (21.4 percent).

"It's tough to get your mindset out of the way we played tonight," Flacco said. "Look, we just won an NFL game, and we did some good things on offense. Now, the stat line isn't great but we did what we had to do to win football games."

The Ravens don't have the flash of a Tom Brady or an electric offense like the Eagles, but Baltimore finally has momentum on its side. The Ravens won consecutive games for the first time since the first two weeks of the season.

Baltimore's path to its first playoff berth since 2014 remains firmly in its grasp. The Ravens play three of their final five games at home and face only two teams with winning records.

"We want to be consistent," Suggs said. "We don't want to have to make two big plays in a row. But, if we have to, we will. It's a good place to build, a good place to start. But we're working on consistency."