November 1, 2009
Running to the Rescue
by Keith Weiland
Running back Ryan Moats replaced a fumble-prone Steve Slaton to boost the Texans to a 31-10 victory over the Bills. Moats ran for 126 yards and scored three fourth quarter touchdowns, leading the team to its fifth win in eight games, a new franchise record.
Moats entered the game in the first quarter following Slaton's fifth lost fumble of the season. Relegated to the bench for the remainder of the game, Slaton's status as a starter will likely be debated even after head coach Gary Kubiak announces his decision.
While Moats and the offensive line blew through the Bills defense on Sunday, an equally impressive performance was turned in by the defense. They overcame three first half turnovers by the offense, allowing just ten points and none in the second half.
Coming out of a 10-6 halftime deficit, the defense forced the Bills to a three-and-out series, a fast developing trend as the Texans were noted as leading the league in the category entering the game. They continued to stymie an ineffective Bills offense, which only managed nine first downs the entire game.
Following a Kris Brown field goal in the third quarter to narrow the Bills lead to a single point at 10-9, the Texans capped off a 10-play drive when Moats ran 11 yards between guard and center for the touchdown. A successful two-point conversion on a completion to Andre Johnson gave the Texans the 17-10 lead.
The defense forced another three-and-out on the Bills' next possession before attempting what was arguably the game's critical play of the game.
Down by seven and unable to spark anything offensively, the Bills used an opportunity on fourth-and-2 with 12:27 remaining in the game to try and catch the Texans napping on special teams. Bills punter Brian Moorman fielded the deep snap and began to run wide right before handing off to Justin Jenkins for the reverse.
But the Texans weren't napping at all. Tight end James Casey alertly contained the backside and wrapped up Jenkins for the three yard loss and the turnover on downs.
With the short field, the Texans offense marched back down to the endzone as Moats scored just two and a half minutes later to secure a giant 14-point lead. Credit the Bills for trying something - anything - to get going before it was too late, but congratulate the Texans punt coverage unit for being aware of the game situation and snuffing out any hopes of a comeback.
After three kneel downs to end the game, quarterback Matt Schaub knew who deserved today's game ball when he quickly handed it over to Moats. After a rough summer (remember the incident with that over-zealous policeman while rushing to be with his dying mother-in-law?), Moats has taken advantage of this opportunity and truly made the most of it. He was quick to the hole, useful in the passing game (2 catches for 25 yards), and had a nose for the goalline in short yardage where he collected his third TD rush of the game.
The Texans finally were able to control the line of scrimmage for Moats thanks to a dominating effort by the offensive line, so game balls to all the fellas. Nice work. And talking about dominating the line, the front four on defense were also impressive today. Granted the Bills were playing with a few backups, but interior linemen like Kasey Studdard, Antonio Smith, and Amobi Okoye turned in nice performances. As a result, the Texans nearly owned forty minutes of possession in a road game.
And hey, I'm gonna give one more game ball here to Kubiak. His team lost three turnovers in the first half and could have easily lost their composure. Plus, I believe the Kubiak of old would have gone for it late in the first half on fourth down deep in Bills territory. Instead, Kubiak took a timeout and elected to kick a field goal to narrow the Bills' lead to 7-6.
Sure, the Texans probably had a better than even chance to convert that fourth down attempt, but Kubiak accurately recognized that his team had the better talent, and over four quarters, that better talent would bear itself out. He maintained an even disposition in the face of adversity and had his team poised to go for the kill in the fourth quarter on the road. Nice ballgame, coach.
23-126, 3 TDs
There were a number of stats that shone in this one, such as the third down efficiency, the passing yards allowed, the total offensive output, and the time of possession, but the team's success came from a facet of their game that had struggled all season. Is Moats the long-term answer as the starting running back? Even the short-term answer? Maybe, maybe not, but he was just what the Texans needed to lock up this win.
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