Before the season started, the Ravens’ young pass rushers bestowed a new nickname on Justin Houston, the respected veteran entering his 12th season. Last year, his first in Baltimore, Houston was Yoda. As training camp unfolded, he was Sensei.
On Monday night, the 33-year-old Houston showed a prime-time audience all of his teachings. In a 27-13 win over the New Orleans Saints, Houston was the best player inside the Caesars Superdome, headlining a season-best night for a restocked Ravens defense.
He finished with 2 1/2 sacks, becoming the first player in franchise history with three straight multi-sack games. After notching a pair of sacks in back-to-back games in limited snaps, he entered the “Monday Night Football’ matchup seemingly rejuvenated by the streaking Ravens’ week-and-a-half wait for their next game, finishing with five quarterback pressures.
A fourth-quarter interception — Houston’s first since 2018, set up by defensive lineman Brent Urban — preceded running back Kenyan Drake’s second rushing touchdown and bolstered the Ravens’ lead to 27-6. New Orleans (3-6) finished with 243 yards overall, its fewest of the season.
The Ravens again leaned on their rushing attack, finishing with 40 carries for 188 yards (4.7 per carry) against one of the NFL’s stouter run defenses. Quarterback Lamar Jackson finished 12-for-22 for 133 yards and a touchdown, doing most of his damage on the ground (11 carries for 82 yards) with a threadbare receiving corps.
With the win, the Ravens extended their winning streak to three games, tied with the Miami Dolphins for the AFC’s longest, and maintained their lead in the AFC North over the Cincinnati Bengals (5-4).
Next comes a long-awaited bye week. The Ravens won’t play again until a Nov. 20 matchup against the reeling Carolina Panthers, their first game in Baltimore since Oct. 23. With a soft second-half slate, the Ravens will be heavily favored to advance to the playoffs. The only team above .500 they face is Cincinnati, which the Ravens won’t see until Week 18, the final weekend of the regular season.
Ahead of kickoff, the Ravens seemed to be defined as much by who was missing as by who was returning. Jackson was without four top weapons for the first time all season. Running backs Gus Edwards (hamstring) was ruled out, and J.K. Dobbins (knee) remained sidelined. Tight end Mark Andrews (knee/shoulder) missed his first game because of injury in his career. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman headed to injured reserve Tuesday with a season-ending Lisfranc (foot) injury.
But the Ravens’ newcomers didn’t need long to make their introductions. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, making his first appearance since tearing his Achilles tendon 10 months ago in the Ravens’ 2021 season finale, hurried Dalton into a drive-ending incompletion on the Saints’ opening possession.
On New Orleans’ next drive, inside linebacker Roquan Smith snuffed out a third-and-1 run by running back Alvin Kamara. Teammates slapped the All-Pro gleefully on his helmet, strutting off the field with the stalwart the Ravens acquired from the Chicago Bears for a second- and fifth-round draft pick only a week ago.
The Ravens’ investment in Smith, a pending free agent, paid off on their next drive. Jackson went 5-for-5 for 67 yards in leading the Ravens to an 11-play, 76-yard touchdown march, capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass to tight end Isaiah Likely. The rookie, playing significant snaps with Andrews sideline, leaked out downfield, uncovered, on an apparent designed quarterback run.
The Ravens’ just-hired help arrived on offense, too. DeSean Jackson, called up from the practice squad for his 2022 debut, chipped in with a 16-yard catch on the drive, becoming the oldest active wide receiver in the NFL to be targeted this season. He later left with a hamstring injury.
As the Ravens’ defense kept its clamps on New Orleans, the Saints slowly released their hold on Lamar Jackson. He passed Steve Young for fifth place in career rushing yards by a quarterback with a 16-yard run on third down midway through the second quarter. Later in the drive, Jackson shook off a tackle attempt behind the line of scrimmage for a 12-yard gain that got the Ravens into the red zone.
After a 1-yard touchdown run by Drake, the Ravens, up 14-0, became the third team in the past 20 seasons to hold a double-digit lead in nine straight games to begin a season, joining the 2009 Saints and 2011 Green Bay Packers.
New Orleans ended the half and its shutout with a 33-yard field goal by former Ravens kicker Wil Lutz, but entered halftime with just 100 yards overall. Even the Saints’ lone touchdown Monday was close to a gift, with wide receiver Juwan Johnson scoring late in the fourth quarter on a 41-yard catch-and-run on which cornerback Marcus Peters offered little resistance.
This story will be updated.
Panthers at Ravens
Sunday, Nov. 20, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 45
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM