BALTIMORE (AP) — With J.K. Dobbins lost for the season because of a torn Achilles tendon, the Baltimore Ravens are again facing some major questions about their backfield.
That injury did not prevent them from opening the season with a double-digit win.
Justice Hill scored twice in the second half after Dobbins’ exit, and the Ravens pulled away for a 25-9 victory over Houston on Sunday. Baltimore managed only 265 total yards and Lamar Jackson turned the ball over twice, but the Ravens’ defense kept C.J. Stroud and the Texans out of the end zone.
“There’s so many things that we need to work on and get better at, and that’s what we’ll do starting on Monday,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m excited with the win. I’m proud of the way the guys played.”
Dobbins ran for an early touchdown before leaving with his injury, which Harbaugh said after the game would cost him the rest of the season. He had 22 yards on eight carries. Jackson led Baltimore in rushing with 38 yards on six attempts.
Baltimore (1-0) looked out of sync for much of its first game with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and the Texans (0-1) kept it close for a half under new coach DeMeco Ryans. Stroud, a rookie making his first start, directed a couple of solid drives, but Houston couldn’t move the ball consistently enough.
“For his first time out, C.J. was in a tough place to play,” Ryans said.
Jackson threw for 169 yards, and rookie receiver Zay Flowers was the main source of excitement for Baltimore’s new-look offense. He caught nine passes for 78 yards on a day when the Ravens were without tight end Mark Andrews because of a quad injury.
Odell Beckham Jr., who signed with Baltimore in the offseason, played for the first time since injuring his knee in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. He caught two passes and drew a couple of pass interference calls — including one that set up Hill’s second TD.
After leaving Andrews inactive, the Ravens ended the game with even more injury problems. Safety Marcus Williams left with what was announced as a shoulder problem, a blow to a secondary that was already missing cornerback Marlon Humphrey (foot). Then Dobbins caught a pass deep in Houston territory and walked off gingerly.
Dobbins is in the final year of his rookie contract, meaning he may have played his last game for Baltimore. The former Ohio State star missed the 2021 season with a knee injury and played eight games last year.
In the fourth quarter, Baltimore left tackle Ronnie Stanley appeared to be in a lot of pain after going down with a knee injury, but he was able to walk off. Center Tyler Linderbaum also walked off after he hurt his ankle.
Stroud’s career began in unusual fashion. The former Ohio State star caught his own pass — the first one he attempted — after it was deflected into the air. That drive ended when he took a sack on fourth down at his 36, but the Ravens couldn’t take advantage of that field position because Jackson was intercepted by Steven Nelson.
Dobbins opened the scoring, reaching the end zone with a big leap on a 4-yard run in the first quarter, but Baltimore’s offensive line looked surprisingly porous in the first half. After going the whole first quarter without a first down, the Texans kicked a couple of field goals in the second.
The Ravens scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the third. Hill’s 2-yard run — along with Gus Edwards’ run for a 2-point conversion after Houston was offside on the extra point — made it 15-6. Then Baltimore stopped running back Dameon Pierce on fourth-and-1 in Houston territory, and Hill added another 2-yard TD run.
A fumble by Jackson led to another Houston field goal early in the fourth, but the Texans never mounted much of a threat in the final minutes. Stroud threw for 242 yards.
Stroud avoided any interceptions in his first game, although taking a sack on fourth-and-1 on his initial drive could certainly be characterized as a rookie mistake. He was sacked five times in all and lost a fumble on one of them.
“I feel like, of course, it wasn’t what we wanted,” Stroud said. “I’ve got to be better overall, make more plays and protect the football. I’ve got to be better in the huddle and things like that. I had some positive things but I’ve got to keep growing from here and keep getting better.”