The Baltimore Ravens outclassed the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, winning 27-13 as Justin Houston had an evening to remember.
In a game which was dominated by the Ravens’ ground game, Baltimore running back Kenyan Drake rushed for two touchdowns, as well as 93 yards, while quarterback Lamar Jackson threw for another and ran for 82 yards.
The Ravens defense stifled Andy Dalton and a depleted Saints offense, with Houston finishing with two-and-a-half sacks and a key interception in the fourth quarter, as New Orleans was held to a season-low 243 yards.
The ever-improving Baltimore defense, bolstered by the addition of linebacker Roquan Smith – who had been acquired in a trade with the Chicago Bears last week and was making his debut – gave the Saints fits throughout, sacking Dalton four times and deflecting six of his passes.
The star of the show was Houston though who, despite having doubts about his future during the offseason, has looked revived this season.
The 33-year-old was a constant nuisance – Monday’s game was his third in a row with at least two sacks – and he admitted postgame that there were thoughts in the offseason about not playing this year.
“I was actually thinking about retiring,” Houston said after claiming his first interception since 2018.
“Me and my wife took a vacation and I turned my phone off. I just prayed and I prayed, and I literally heard God say: ‘Give me all of you and I will give you your desires.’ I told my wife: ‘Listen, I’m going to be all in this season.’”
Houston, a four-time Pro Bowler and likely a future Hall of Famer, now has 110.5 career sacks, but has blossomed into much more than an important player, becoming a role model for his younger counterparts.
“It’s just inspiring to be in the room with a guy like that,” second-year outside linebacker Odafe Oweh said. “It was impressive to see.
“He told me this summer when he was working out in Georgia that he was really tapped in, in terms of this year and what he really wanted for himself. You see it, obviously. I don’t know what it is, but I’m trying to get whatever he’s got.”
The win improves Baltimore’s record to 6-3 this season and moves them atop the AFC North division above the Cincinnati Bengals.
After an impressive shutout win last week over the Las Vegas Raiders, the Saints were hoping their so-far-disappointing season might be on the up.
But it wasn’t to be, despite being cheered on by a packed Caesars Superdome.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara was held to just 30 yards on nine carries and 32 receiving yards after 158 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in the 24-0 victory over the Raiders last week.
Dalton did connect with Juwan Johnson for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and rookie wide receiver Chris Olave had another impressive outing, but it was another evening of miscues and slight misses for New Orleans.
After the defeat, the sixth of the year in what’s been an underwhelming season so far, Dalton said it was the whole team failing.
“You have got to look at (the game) and see what areas you need to improve (and) what things we need to correct, for everybody,” Dalton said.
“Everybody, kind of, had a hand in it tonight. So we’ve got to look at it and see what changes we need to get better at. We’ve got to get better quick. We have a short week this week.”