Sunday, October 2, 2011
Since Foster Carries Swagger, Texans Don't Miss Johnson
Gary Kubiak slowly removed his headphones off his head. He took a deep breath, then he gazed at his fallen star, and he wore solicitous features on his face heavily. It's frightening whenever a team loses its star player, and the last thing the Houston Texans expected was an ailment to debilitate a go-to receiver.
For now, the Texans are caught in uncertainty after Andre Johnson crashed to the turf without contact and grabbed the back of his leg instantly, then stood on his own two feet and walked off the field gingerly. There'd be no reason to panic, however, when it was arguably the most convincing win of the Texans season, sending a statement against one of the toughest and stingiest defensive teams.
At the end, with a 17-10 win Sunday in front of the largest home crowd in franchise history, Kubiak smiled from the sideline and slowly charged the field in bliss, proudly and merrily, like a little kid earning a trick or treat bucket filled with candies. It's been four games now, and finally, for the second time in the 2011-12 season, Arian Foster played and rushed for 155 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown after Johnson left with a hamstring injury.
So when he is on the turf, a prolific speedster who is a fantasy stud, he is a product in the Texans' system that features a stellar zone blocking scheme, giving him space to dart out of the backfield as a all-purpose rusher. Back from an injury, after a full recovery, he showed up with his attributes and dashed past Steelers defenders, slowing down the sluggish and oldest defense.
It hasn't exactly been a week, but either way the Texans won't miss the injured Johnson, and after Foster's breakthrough performance with his quickness and stamina, they can actually survive each week. There's no other running back on the planet as quick as Foster, who is finally ready to play effectively and have a factor on the way his team performs. This is a different team when Foster is active. Hell, it's a different team when he is sidelined.
Early in the season, the hamstring injury kept Foster sidelined and he wasn't capable of being creative with his nifty footwork and couldn't fight through the injury. But now, he can finally run hastily and push on the pass rush, very effective and unstoppable in the pocket. He is fit and healthy, but more than ever, has the mobility to be explosive and run at full speed.
In every way, that is, he is a boon for the Texans' offense. It is a dynamic offense, and as long as Foster plays, Houston won't have to be concern with scoreless games. He is a forceful tailback and could dictate the tempo of the game, just as the Texans could be paramount as it was against the Steelers, making life miserable for Ben Roethlisberger.
It was, by far, the finest performance by the Texans, particularly when the team is known for its blunders on the road or at home. It really used to never matter, but now it's irrelevant to talk about the Texans struggles. From the beginning, they have been resilient and tougher, on the verge of clinching a playoff spot only if Houston continue its dominance in the season.
This wasn't expected, and it's probably because the Texans were feeble and never finished the fourth quarter strong, but would instead perform the choke job. The defense hasn't lacked mental toughness, beating every team that cross its path, tired of getting pushed and bullied every Sunday.
It's time to praise Houston and admittedly forecast that this team will be crowned AFC South champs by the end of the season, particularly when Foster has returned robust to what appears that he is in full form. Though Kubiak said it's a "hamstring-related" injury, Johnson is reportedly expected to miss at least a week as the injury is described as unknown. The Texans became dominant with Foster, which means Johnson won't be needed.
It seems as if he's more an accessory than a reinforcement, and most of the game Foster showed glimpses of life. On the bright side, he has dazzled and slaughtered a sluggish Pittsburgh defense, finding the openings and pushing through the middle to speed by the Blitzburgh. The nicest thing is he finished with triple-digit rushing yards on 30 carries and ran on a bad hamstring.
The Texans couldn't care less about being the understatement in the league, treated with disrespect even though they're having one of their sensational seasons. It was painful for Roethlisberger, who takes a beating more than anybody else in the league and sustained a sprained ankle in the game. It was brutal in which he was sacked multiple times and harassed by defensive end Mario Williams aka Super Mario.
It never gotten any worse, and surprisingly, the Texans responded with physicality and mental toughness to pressure the hell out of the Steelers. They applied the hard hits and forced turnovers, an attitude rarely seen from the Texans. But last week during practice, Kubiak emphasized the significance of aggressiveness and physicality, and the entire team followed his instructions by applying it on the field.
Early in the game, the Texans controlled the momentum with a 95-yard touchdown drive in 19 plays for the longest drive in franchise history. It never became any better for the Steelers. It was as if the Steelers were confused and intimidated, scared to play the Texans, a team that bullied and pushed Pittsburgh around like a chew toy.
There was a moment when the Steelers tied the game at 10 early in the fourth, but the Texans answered with an awesome 85-yard play that set up Foster's 42-yard touchdown.
And there you have it, Foster and the defense are the components to beat, not Johnson. After a good start this season, the Texans have the swagger, even more so with a monstrous rusher.