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Texans defense healthier for rematch with Patriots

Texans defense healthier for rematch with Patriots

HOUSTON (AP) The first time Houston faced the Patriots, top cornerback Johnathan Joseph played while still struggling to get healthy, and outside linebacker Brooks Reed sat out with an injury.

That game turned into an embarrassing 42-14 loss to New England. Now both are back to full strength, and the Texans believe that makes their defense much stronger this time around.

``Right now, I can probably say this is the best I've felt all year,'' Joseph said.

He was slowed by a hamstring injury that kept him out the two games before the first matchup against the Patriots.

``Obviously, back then I was good enough to play but I wasn't at my best,'' he said. ``Right now I can say I'm 100 percent.''

Joseph, who often shadows the opponent's best receiver, knows that he and the rest of the secondary will have their hands full. Not only must they deal with New England's wide receivers, but also its tight end duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski didn't play in the first game against Houston.

``They can place the ball on his back side or throw it up top and those guys both have great hands where they can make the difficult catch in traffic,'' Joseph said. ``For us, it will be a task, but I think that we have the guys here that are up for the challenge. It's just about making plays.''

Reed, a second-year player, started 12 games in the regular season. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips called him a ``physical force.''

``He's obviously a good player, but I think just his physicality really helps us as far as our mental toughness overall as a defensive unit,'' Phillips said.

A frustrated Reed had to watch the team struggle against the Patriots and not be able to help out.

``Now, it's a little bit different,'' he said. ``So I'll be out there and try to make plays of my own.''

Reed had a sack last week against the Bengals; he now has at least one in each the three postseason games in Texans history. His best playoff performance came last season against the Ravens when he had 2 1/2 sacks.

Joseph appreciates Reed's versatility.

``He can play the run and the pass, so he's a two-sided guy,'' Joseph said. ``I think he had just experience from last year coming in ... so just having Brooks back and those guys rotating and whatever they're doing up front, I think it just helps those guys from a health standpoint and just being fresh all the time.''

Houston is hoping to build on last week's dominant defensive performance in its 19-13 wild-card win over the Bengals. The Texans limited them to 198 yards, which was the lowest yardage total in the first round of the playoffs, and only 53 before halftime.

They also cleaned up their problems on third down, not allowing Cincinnati to convert any of its nine third-down chances.

This week the Texans know they must get pressure on Tom Brady and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. They'll look to defensive star J.J. Watt to lead that charge. Watt led the NFL with a franchise-record 20 1/2 sacks in the regular season. He also had 107 tackles, including 39 for losses, 16 passes defended and forced four fumbles.

In Watt's rookie season, the Texans lost to the Ravens in the divisional round.

``We were happy to make it as far as we did, but this year, new year, new goals,'' he said. ``Biggest goal of them all, Super Bowl, and this is a big step for us, and we're really excited about the challenge.''

Phillips, who began coaching in the NFL in 1976, believes Watt is clearly the best defensive player in the NFL this season.

``He had the best season ever,'' Phillips said. ``I mean, nobody has had a season like that. Nobody has made that many tackles, that many sacks, that many pass breakups and that many tackles for loss or tackles for no gain in the history of football. Nobody has had a year like that. It's the best I've ever seen, sure.''

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Former Raven Terrell Suggs and the Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl-bound

Former Raven Terrell Suggs and the Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl-bound

Terrell Suggs and the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans 35-24 Sunday to advance to Super Bowl LIV in Miami. 

Suggs, who spent 16 seasons with the Ravens, will look to cement his Hall of Fame candidacy with a victory in his second Super Bowl appearance (Won SB XLVII) this time as a member of the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Suggs departed from Baltimore before the 2019 season, signing a one-year deal with his hometown Arizona Cardinals before being waived mid-season. 

The Ravens were rumored to be interested in a reunion with their all-time leader in sacks but did not put in a claim, being last in waiver priority, and Suggs was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs.



While the Ravens' 2019 season ended prematurely at the hands of the Titans, fans in Baltimore can take solace knowing that Suggs and the Chiefs helped bring the Titans' magical season to an end.

Suggs' accolades (2011 AP Def. Player of the Year, 2003 AP Def. Rookie of the Year, 7x Pro-Bowl, 1x All-Pro) will stand the test of time, but adding a second Super Bowl ring to his resume would make his Hall of Fame candidacy that much greater. 

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The Ravens appear to have their entire coaching staff returning for the 2020 season

The Ravens appear to have their entire coaching staff returning for the 2020 season

While the Ravens roster will likely remain mostly together for the 2020 regular season, it appears the coaching staff will stay entirely intact, too. 

After both coordinators, Greg Roman and Don “Wink” Martindale, had interviews with the Browns and Giants, respectively, those jobs were filled by Kevin Stefanski and Joe Judge. 

And more recently, quarterbacks coach James Urban and tight ends coach Bobby Engram were requested for interviews by the Eagles. Harbaugh said both Engram and Urban pulled out of the running and weren’t interested.

“It looks like our staff is going to stay together,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I can tell you that. I’m not saying anything couldn’t happen; there are always things brewing for a certain period of time.”

The Ravens have every offensive starter from the divisional playoff game under contract for next season, and now appear to have the offensive coordinator and all of the position coaches back on-board for another run too. The Ravens set a franchise record with 531 points, led by Lamar Jackson.

Things are still fluid, as a job opportunity for anyone on the staff can pop up out of the blue. But for now, the Ravens look like they’ll run the entire operation back for another go at a Super Bowl.

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