September 13, 2010
Foster Goes Bananas
by Keith Weiland
Keith -at- IntheBullseye -dot- com
Greatest. Texans. Win. Ever.
Those four words punctuated a 34-24 statement made by the Texans as they defeated the defending AFC Conference champion Colts on Sunday. Emerging from a halftime locker room clinging to a 3-point lead, the Texans called for the run on ten straight plays, setting the tone for a breakout performance by running back Arian Foster.
Undrafted a year ago, Foster continued his impressive end to the 2009 season by carrying the football 33 times for franchise record 231 yards. The 1-yard touchdown he scored at the end of that opening drive of the third quarter was his first of three on the afternoon.
Foster's big day gave the Texans only their second victory over the Colts since their inception. More importantly, the division win starts off the 2010 on a fever rush and bubbling with optimism.
Defensively, the Texans found a way into the Colts offensive backfield to pressure quarterback Peyton Manning and throw off the timing of their offense. While Manning racked up 433 passing yards, the Colts ground game could muster only 44 yards. Known for their ability to turn third downs into first downs, the Colts offense converted just 4 of their 12 attempts.
After building a 6-0 lead in the first quarter, the Texans offense strung together three consecutive completions, the third of which landed in the hands of Kevin Walter for a 22-yard touchdown and a 13-0 advantage. Manning later responded with a 14-yard scoring pass of his own to Reggie Wayne, and the Colts added a field goal just before halftime to narrow the score to 13-10.
Kudos to the Texans staff for exploiting a weakness to open the second half. Foster and backup Steve Slaton were called upon to run the ball eight straight times, setting up the game's...
First Key Play
With a fourth-and-1 from the Colts 20, head coach Gary Kubiak wasted no time choosing not to settle for another field goal deep in Colts territory. A shrewd decision, as opponents typically fail to beat the Colts with three-pointers. Sensing the momentum with the ground game, Kubiak's offense went to the run for a ninth time on the drive, sending Foster to the right side for two yards and the first down. Foster later capped off the drive with a 1-yard scoring run to give the Texans a confidence-boosting 20-10 lead.
Next, the Texans defense made their mark on this game. On the ensuing drive, ends Mario Williams and Jesse Nading met at Manning on third down to drop the passer for a sack and a 7-yard loss, pushing the Colts outside of field goal range. The next big defensive play would prove to be the game's...
Second Key Play
In the fourth quarter, still holding onto a tenuous 10-point lead (remember any blown 17-point fourth quarter leads against the Colts??), Manning drove the offense across midfield. On 3rd down with 5 to go, Manning found receiver Austin Collie for a 32-yard pass to the Houston 9-yard line. Safety Bernard Pollard hit Collie hard enough to loosen the football, and corner Glover Quin recovered. Crisis averted.
Foster ran 41 yards on the next play, then finished the drive with a 25-yard touchdown run. It was his second of the day, and it pushed the lead to 17 points, 27-10.
Never done, Manning engineered a 12-play drive to paydirt, locating tight end Dwight Clark for a 10-yard touchdown pass. The onsides kickoff attempt failed, and the Texans used the next drive to run it exclusively on the Colts seven more times until Foster scored his third TD of the game, an 8-yard jaunt for the 34-17 lead with less than two mintues to play.
Foster's record day was the second most rushing yards in NFL history for an opening day performance. Yeah, he gets a game ball. So does the offensive line, especially tackles Duane Brown and Eric Winston, for controlling the edges and letting Foster get outside to make his cutback runs.
Kubiak also gets the rare game ball here as well. He wisely shelved his team's strength in favor of exploiting a blatant Colts weakness. Beautifully, he exploiting it over and over and over again in the second half. Pound, pound.
Pollard has developed his hard-hitting, tone-setting rep for hits and big plays like the one he made on Collie to force the fumble. Especially with linebacker Brian Cushing serving his suspension, the team needed its other defensive playmaker to enforce his will, and that Pollard did.
Credit too belongs to Williams, the man drafted to terrorize Manning. Only awarded two half sacks for his effort on the stat sheet, Williams made his presence known all afternoon.
Foster's day running the football could easily be the key stat, since the Texans rushing offense churned the clock and kept the potent Colts offense off the field, but it was the defensive shut down of the Manning machine on third down that really helped to deliver this win. The Colts own a very efficient offense, and they seem to always pull a rabbit out of their hat on third downs in the past, but not so this Sunday.
Afterward, the players downplayed the importance of this win in postgame interviews, and well they should since there are 15 more games to play. But make no mistake, this was huge by any measure for this franchise. The Texans throttled their divisional bully, and as a team, they have no reason to think anyone else can stand in their way this season. The franchise's first win against the Cowboys in their inaugural game has long been thought to be the best win in team history, but this one really means so much more.
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