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NFL playoffs: What We Learned from Ravens' win over the Texans in AFC Divisional Round

1) Lamar Jackson, the familiar X-factor. Despite the final score, Baltimore found itself in a dog fight at halftime. The tide turned on the first possession of the second half, a scoring march in which Jackson carried the offense, hitting open targets with precise passes and finishing it off with a 15-yard scramble up the middle. The scramble defined the day, in which Jackson resumed his role as the slippery superstar who simultaneously frustrates opposing defenses and wears them down. When receivers weren't open, Jackson took off for positive gains, finishing with 100 rushing yards and two scores on just 11 attempts. When they were open, he ripped bullets to them to keep drives going, finishing with 16 completions on 22 attempts for 152 yards and two more touchdowns. And by the fourth quarter, it was only fitting that Jackson capped Baltimore's run of touchdowns with an 8-yard scramble to the end zone (and into the tunnel) to officially ice the game. He's going to win the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player, and he's played like one for the last month and a half -- including Saturday.

2) Houston never finds time to breathe. Fresh off a 45-14 bludgeoning of the Browns chock full of explosive plays, Houston fell back to earth faster than a spacecraft returning from orbit. Rookie sensation C.J. Stroud never had an opportunity to get comfortable in the pocket, constantly bailing out of it amid relentless pressure brought by the Ravens, who threw a wrench into offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik's attack from the very start. The Texans' running game never showed up, totaling just 38 yards on the ground as a team, allowing Ravens rushers to pin their ears back and hunt Stroud. To the rookie's credit, he completed 19 of 33 passes for 175 yards, but everything was incredibly difficult for him. Houston failed to reach the end zone offensively, and by the time the Ravens took a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, it was painfully obvious the Texans would never catch up. Baltimore's defense -- which excels at creating pressure from unexpected angles -- flat out dominated, sending the scrappy Texans home in convincing fashion.

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3) Baltimore's run game pounds Texans into submission. Jackson led the way on the ground, slicing through Houston's defense on both designed runs and scrambles, and truly blossomed following linebacker Christian Harris' departure due to injury. In that moment, Houston lost its lone answer for Jackson, surrendering contain. But it wasn't just about Jackson. Justice Hill and Gus Edwards paced a classically hard-running ground attack for the Ravens, combining to finish with 106 yards on 23 attempts. Veteran Dalvin Cook, a recent elevation from the practice squad, even got in on the action, handling the running duties in the final quarter and finishing with 23 yards on eight attempts. Baltimore is such an intimidating team because while Jackson powers them, they're so much more than just a team carried by a superstar signal-caller. The Ravens can bludgeon you on the ground, light it up through the air, and if you stop those two elements, Jackson will likely find a crease with his legs. All three worked Saturday.

4) Houston's magical run ends with a dud. One can say the Texans ran out of gas, but truly, the environment was too big for them. Baltimore's crowd affected the game from the beginning, forcing multiple false starts, and Mike Macdonald's relentless defense sucked the life out of the Texans, who had been brimming with it in their blowout win over Cleveland a week ago. Things can change quickly in this league, but that statement should comfort Houston fans, who watched their formerly also-ran team morph into a playoff squad and legitimate contender. The future is bright, and perhaps this frustrating day will become a valuable lesson for this club.

5) Ravens soar toward AFC Championship Game. Baltimore made a strong statement to the rest of the NFL with how it closed the regular season, scoring dominant wins over Jacksonville, San Francisco and Miami and quickly rocketing Jackson up the MVP board into pole position. Two weeks of rest (Baltimore sat its starters in Week 18) left some concerned the Ravens might enter the Divisional Round with visible rust, which wasn't entirely untrue. The Ravens got off to a bit of a slow start in the first half and closed it poorly, allowing Jackson to be sacked consecutively on their final possession before the break, but that intermission worked like steel wool for Baltimore, which came out firing in the third quarter and cruised to a win. The Ravens are on fire, and have been for a while, and whoever meets them at M&T Bank Stadium next weekend is in for a war.

Next Gen stat of the game: C.J. Stroud faced pressure on a career-high 51.4% of dropbacks, finishing 7 of 17 on pressured attempts for 62 yards and a completion percentage over expected of -2.1 percent.

NFL Research: Baltimore shut the Houston offense out of the end zone in both of their meetings this season, becoming the only team to do so even once in the 2023 season.

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