Just when you thought the Houston Texans were too bruised and battered, lacking in big game experience, and were more short-handed than an Ethan Hunt IMF team, Arian Foster stormed for 153 yards and two touchdowns. And his gloves didn’t even have suction caps.
Striding around his offensive line late in the fourth quarter, Foster capped a splendid Texans ground assault that might just be enough to topple the vaunted Baltimore Ravens defense Sunday. His thrilling 42-yard cut into the Cincinnati Bengals defensive jungle was both ferocious and elegant, like a Ferrari Testarossa growling and then exploding into warp speed. The Bengals never seemed ready.
Of course, the key to any great run is blocking, and the Texans protect Foster like he’s a Lone Star President, not simply a Houston tailback. Houston poured into Cincinnati’s defensive wall with a basic zone blocking scheme that utilizes quick movement, shifting and shoving right to unbalance the Bengals before they even had a chance at the play. Once removed from the clashing and cacophony of smacks – the brutal locking of horns and claws – Foster shifted gears and rambled around the bend.
This was the kind of play that 71,000 fans inside a stadium dream about, salivate for. And thankfully, it was that rare play that suitably quenches their desire, leaving them delirious in adoration and disbelief. While the fans likely anticipated the decisive break that followed his horizontal path, heads rose excitedly as Foster swiveled his torso and turned up field beyond the first down marker. Suddenly, and reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch a year ago, he threw the gear stick forward and belted down the narrowest of straights. How in the world will the old Ravens keep up with this?
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With still a reasonable distance to cover for a score, Foster jabbed it into fifth, utilizing all 380 horse power of his No.23 model. His knees pumping and arms fending, the sleek back, upright and at high speed, simply ran over the remaining Bengals who looked out of control, rushing like driftwood toward a waterfall. Chris Crocker, the last man victimized by Foster’s bullish forearm, came off worse than an orange cone at the end of a driving test.
Foster’s 6.4 yards a clip was magnificent and dwarfed anything the Bengals could counter with. But his second touchdown, tough and full of tumult, and precisely blocked, showed this Texans team can score on anyone. All that’s needed is a crease, as they say, and a runner like Foster who knows when to bolt into it. The Ravens will need more than pregame rage to stay on their feet and contain this back.
The Texans gallop into Baltimore as a 7.5 point underdog paying + 280 on the moneyline with absolutely no one giving them a chance. While Baltimore did beat Houston 29-14 in Week 6, Andre Johnson did not play in that game. Arian Foster was limited to just 15 carries in that contest and the difference was five Billy Cundiff field goals.
The Ravens have certainly had their share of clunkers against inferior teams this season. Baltimore lost a prime-time game to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7; narrowly escaped with a 30-27 victory at home against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8; were stunned losing to the Seattle Seahawks 22-17 in Week 10; and were man handled in a 34-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers in week 15.
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Houston’s zone blocking running game is firing on all cylinders and if the Ravens are looking past the Texans because they are playing T. J. Yates, a rookie third string quarterback, they may find themselves in the same situation as the Pittsburgh Steelers next week.
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JP Pelosi is a journalist and the editor of Why Football Is Cool, a blog about pro football trends, ideas and culture. He started as a sportswriter on his college paper The Mace and Crown at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. JP has since written stories for The Globe and Mail, The Virginian Pilot, Inside Hoops, The Bleacher Report and Technorati’s football blog The Gridiron Grind. You may email JP directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jppelosi16