The Baltimore Ravens' new-look defense is starting to come together after a forgettable Week 1 performance. The most recent performance, in fact, probably left a pair of former contributors impressed.
The Ravens look to keep the Buffalo Bills out of the end zone this Sunday when the club's clash at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Following their second Super Bowl championship in 13 years last season, the Ravens saw a number of exits from a defense that defined the club over the previous decade. Two of the bigger names returned to Baltimore this past weekend, when safety Ed Reed's Houston Texans came to town on a day that retired linebacker Ray Lewis was inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor.
Baltimore fell behind early on a pair of Houston field goals, but exploded for 17 straight points in the second quarter and did not allow a touchdown to roll to a 30-9 victory over the previously-unbeaten Texans.
The momentum swing in the game came without the offense. Linebacker Daryl Smith, one of the new faces on defense, picked off a pass and raced 37 yards for a score and Tandon Doss returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes later.
"Two huge plays by the defense and the special teams," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said.
The Ravens were coming off a 14-6 win over Cleveland and have not allowed a touchdown in back-to-back wins since giving up seven in a season-opening 49-27 loss in Denver.
The defense played shut down in the second half as well, giving up just 102 yards to the Texans after halftime.
"You go back to Denver -- you don't ever want to have a performance like that," said Smith. "So, each week, we're going to concentrate on getting better. ... And each week, we'll grow together, we'll gain more chemistry, we'll learn to trust each other more, and I think we've done that the last two weeks, and we just have to continue to do that."
Having rebounded from the rough Week 1 loss, Baltimore aims for its fifth straight 3-1 start under Harbaugh and takes on a Buffalo club that has played in three straight tightly-contested contests.
The Bills split their first two games of the season, both at home. They lost 23-21 to New England in Week 1 before a 24-23 victory over Carolina.
Buffalo hit the road for the first time this past Sunday and was in its game against the New York Jets late before giving up a long score in the fourth quarter of a 27-20 loss.
Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel hit tight end Scott Chandler for a 33-yard score with 10:39 left in the fourth quarter and Manuel's completion to wideout Stevie Johnson on the two-point conversion tied the game at 20-20.
The Jets, who committed a team-record 20 penalties in the game, were able to respond just over a minute later as their rookie signal-caller Geno Smith connected on a 69-yard scoring pass to Santonio Holmes.
"Every loss feels like a missed opportunity," said Johnson. "No matter what happened on the other side of the ball, each team is out there fighting. There is never a perfect game. But it kind of feels unreal right now after fighting back and then them coming back and getting the touchdown. We just have to go back to work."
Manuel threw for 243 yards, but was sacked eight times on the day and the Bills had to settle for four field goals from Dan Carpenter before the Chandler touchdown.
"When they're bringing eight people at you it gets tough," said Manuel. "Moving forward we'll be more prepared for it."