Ravens chasing Texans' Carr, record

Comedians would love to scorch the Houston Texans' offensive line. Ever heard the one about the Texans' pass blocking strategy? It's similar to what a soldier does when he sees a flying grenade heading his way. After they botch their blocking assignment, the linemen just turn around to the quarterback and yell, "Incoming!" Seriously, folks, the Texans have turned rookie franchise passer David Carr into a landing zone for blitzes by allowing a league-high 68 sacks.

Entering today's game against the Baltimore Ravens at Reliant Stadium, Carr is five sacks shy of breaking Randall Cunningham's record of 72 set with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1986. Without boasts or bravado, the Ravens' pass rushers definitely relish the thought of being able to exploit an expansion team's most glaring Achilles' heel. Surrendering four sacks to the Pittsburgh Steelers in an upset win last Sunday was actually an improvement over the Texans' average of five a game. "You can only lick your chops after you get 'em," said Ravens defensive end Adalius Thomas, whose defense is matched against the statistically-worst offense in the NFL. "It gives you a good opportunity to take advantage of what they're doing, but you can't go in there and say they have a sorry line by any means. You have to go in there and make some plays for yourself. "None of you guys picked them to beat Pittsburgh. It's not about the sacks. It's about the wins and the losses." True, and the Texans' deficiencies upfront could contribute to the Ravens (6-7) evening their record and staying alive in the hunt for the AFC North division title. Although Baltimore has only 26 sacks this year, led by outside linebacker Peter Boulware's five, Houston (4-9) has three games with six or more sacks allowed. It wasn't supposed to be this way in the Texans' inaugural season. The Texans drafted perennial Pro Bowl selection Tony Boselli along with Ryan Young in the expansion draft to become their starting tackles. Neither has been healthy, and Boselli hasn't played a down. There's been a constant shuffle of players at offensive guard, too, and center Steve McKinney has been the lone constant. The Texans can take some comfort that they're at no risk of breaking the single-season team record with three games remaining. Besides the former Ravens backup Cunningham's sacks, the Eagles had a total of 104 in 1986. "We don't focus on the record," Texans coach Dom Capers said. "Obviously, David has been sacked more than we would want him to be. We haven't had the continuity on the offensive line." Despite being chased and caught so often, Carr has earned respect for shaking off the dust. The first overall pick in the NFL Draft out of Fresno State has passed for 2,070 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 67.3. "David has earned some of his leadership because of his toughness," Capers said. "I don't think there's any question that he has the physical capabilities. There's always risk involved. We felt having him go through this was the right thing to do to grow together." Carr hasn't had the benefit of a competent running game to take the pressure off of him. His receiving corps is not worth writing home to California about. The Texans average only 3.8 yards per offensive play and have punted 98 times. Houston gained just three first downs and set an NFL-record low for a winning team with 47 yards of total offense in an improbable 24-6 win over the Steelers. Through all of the carnage, Carr hasn't blinked. "That's very impressive, that's the mark of a good quarterback, someone who can go back there and take a sack and get back up and play," Boulware said. "He's going to be one of the top quarterbacks in this league. He's just raw and young." For Boulware, who leads the Ravens with 57 career sacks, this qualifies as a down year as he adjusts to diverse responsibilities in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's 3-4 alignment. It had been six weeks for Boulware to go without a sack until his thirst was quenched last week against the New Orleans Saints when he tackled Aaron Brooks behind the line. "I almost forgot what it was like to get to the quarterback," said Boulware, whose wife, Mary, gave birth to a daughter this week. "Hopefully, I can keep going this week and get a few more and end the season the way it should be."

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