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C.J. Stroud, Texans corralled by Ravens defense (again) in Divisional Round loss

In the leadup to Saturday's Divisional Round showdown, Baltimore Ravens players made it clear they knew they'd face an improved version of C.J. Stroud from the one they saw in Week 1.

Unfortunately for Stroud and the Houston Texans, the result was the same.

Baltimore bested Stroud and Houston through the majority of a 34-10 victory, holding the Texans' offense without a touchdown. It was the same fate dealt to a debuting Stroud and his squad in a 25-9 Week 1 loss.

Despite the frustrating nature of the defeat, first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans was certain to look at the season as a whole, and all the positives the Texans put forth.

"This wasn't our moment right now, this wasn't our time right now, we didn't get it done," said Ryans, who in his first year as coach took Houston back to the playoffs after three straight single-digit win seasons, "but I'm proud of each and every coach and player in the locker room for what we've accomplished throughout the entire year, how we grew through the entire year, and I'm proud of our guys. That's what I told all our guys, keep your head up. Like, credit to the Ravens, but man, proud of each and every man."

Though the magnificence of Stroud and Ryans' rookie campaigns can and should still be celebrated for turning around the Texans franchise, Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald's defense most certainly turned them away.

The Ravens, just as they did in the teams' first meeting this season, held the Texans without an offensive TD -- becoming the first, second and only team to do that to Houston during its 2023 campaign.

Stroud finished his marvelous year with a sub-par showing, completing 19 of 33 passes for 175 yards and a 72.2 rating. Stroud's rating was the second-worst of his 17-game season (including playoffs) and his yardage was his third-worst. It led a Texans offense that scored a season-low three points and totaled nary 213 yards -- their second-worst showing of the year.

"It's been a heckuva year, and I think DeMeco hit on it there, the future's bright, man, but these types of losses suck, you know," Stroud said. "That's a great Ravens team over there and they deserved to win, and it's tough to just get embarrassed like that, but definitely I think our future is bright."

The Ravens pass rush hounded Stroud, who was pressured on a season-high 51.4% of his dropbacks and completed 7 of 17 passes under duress for only 62 yards. To his credit, Stroud never appeared all that flummoxed, but he was corralled, nonetheless.

"We couldn't get going up front," Ryans said. "They made plays on us, they moved, they had a lot of stunts moving their line a lot, they were playing on our side of the line of scrimmage, and we couldn't get going."

Even a flea-flicker off a reverse was snuffed out by Ravens defensive back Geno Stone. It was a play emblematic of how the Texans threw -- or ran -- everything at the Ravens but the proverbial kitchen sink, and still could not get their offense going, much less get it into the end zone.

The Texans had as many first downs (10) as they did points on the day, struggling for every yard, whether it was on the ground (38 rushing yards) or through the air.

It was an unceremonious end to an otherwise stellar season.

"Proud of our guys for just their effort, being relentless throughout this entire season, proud of them for getting to this moment," Ryans said. "We know it's not a moral victory of just being here, it's not what we set out to do, but proud of our team. Accomplished a lot this year, and just looking forward to the future."

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