Turnovers costly, but Texans hanging around

If there’s one thing a road playoff underdog can’t do it’s turn the ball over. Yet as the Texans trail the Ravens 17-13 at halftime, it’s a pair of turnovers that have made the difference.

A 60-yard return from Danieal Manning on the opening kickoff gave the Texans an immediate boost, as the return helped set up a 40-yard field goal, giving rookie quarterback T.J. Yates a little cushion with which to work.

But while Houston’s special teams provided the initial spark, it also proved the source of the game’s initial blunder. Jacoby Jones, who caught 31 balls and a pair of touchdowns this season, failed to grasp a punt return, as he muffed the return and gave the Ravens the ball inside his team’s 10-yard line. Third string tight end Kris Wilson caught a 1-yard touchdown strike from Joe Flacco three plays later to put the Ravens ahead 7-3.

Following a Baltimore field goal, Yates showed his first sign of inexperience under center. Trying to connect with receiver Andre Johnson on a pass late in the first quarter, Yates instead found Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb. Webb had held the inside position on Johnson’s route the whole time, a simply had to put his hands up to force Houston’s second turnover.

Yates’ interception would also prove costly, as Flacco took advantage of the short field. He led the Ravens on a five-play drive which culminated with a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, pushing the home team’s lead to 17-3.

Yet despite the deficit, the Texans settled down in the second quarter. Yates led the offense on drives of a 11 and 12 plays, each time coming away with points. Neil Rackers connected on a 33-yard field goal early in the quarter while running back Arian Foster, already with 95 yards on 15 carries, punched in a 1-yard touchdown to trim Baltimore’s lead to 17-13 at the half.

The Ravens will receive the ball to start the third quarter, but here are a few more stats for the visiting Texans as they look for their first-ever AFC title game appearance.

* Even with the interception, Yates is not playing like a rookie. He is 9-of-18 for 85 yards, but is doing a nice job of managing the offense and complementing Foster’s rushing attack.

* Johnson and Foster are tied with the team lead at four receptions, Johnson’s good for 41 yards and Foster for 29.

* The Texans are winning the battle in the trenches. J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed each have sacks on Flacco, while Houston’s offensive line has yet to allow Yates to be swallowed up by the Ravens’ fearsome front seven.