Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 1/3/12
HOUSTON - It was just one drive, but it was a possession that might come to represent so much more than seven points for the Texans. The Texans utilized 13 plays and six minutes, 43 seconds to cover 90 yards on their opening possession against the Titans last Sunday. Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates completed all four of his attempts for 47 yards despite suffering a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury on the first play. Backup tailbacks Ben Tate and Derrick Ward combined for 44 yards on eight attempts. It was an impressive show of offensive might. The Texans had showcased similar proficiency in the earliest stages of games previously, but that was with Matt Schaub under center and before the team rolled into its open week on a four-game winning streak. In the several weeks since, the Texans hadn't been as prolific. "It was important for the team, the fast starts that we've been getting off to throughout the course of the year," said coach Gary Kubiak, whose Texans (10-6) will host the Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) Saturday at Reliant Stadium in an AFC Wild Card Game. "We looked like ourselves there from an energy standpoint and those type of things, but bottom line is you got to play four quarters. That was something we could build upon." The "playing four quarters" tenet wasn't applicable against the Titans because Kubiak began pulling his starters after the Texans secured that 7-0 lead. There was more of a message sent in that initial aggressive advancement than in the final score because the Texans had little to play for. What was accomplished was a rekindling of past successes and perhaps a reconnection to a point in the season when the Texans were dangerous. Once upon a time, before Schaub suffered a right foot injury against the Buccaneers and subsequently was placed on injured reserve, this is what the Texans did. During one eight-game stretch the Texans scored touchdowns on their opening possession six times. Some, like the march against Tennessee, were masterful exhibitions of balance and control. The Texans' opening drive on Sunday was the fifth that chewed at least five minutes off the clock and the fourth that required at least 10 plays. It paled in comparison to the 19-play, 95-yard, 10-minute and 55-second surge in the 17-10 win over Pittsburgh on Oct. 2, but factor in Yates' five-yard loss on a sack and the drives covered the same distance. The Texans erased six minutes and 39 seconds off the clock in covering 80 yards over 12 plays against the Jaguars on Oct. 30. They needed just one play and 12 seconds to span 80 yards in Tampa two weeks later. The Texans are 9-4 when they score first and won four of the first six games when their opening possession resulted in a touchdown. Then they lost Schaub and receiver Andre Johnson for a second time, and with them went the Texans' ability to execute with precision out of the gate. In their first four games without Schaub, the Texans totaled six yards on 10 plays on their initial drives. Their opening possession against the Colts on Dec. 22 resulted in a touchdown, but that was a byproduct of a turnover that resulted in the Texans taking over at the Indianapolis 17. The first two drives originating on the Texans' side of the field netted minus-6 yards over five plays and ended with a fumble and a punt. With their struggles being so protracted, the Texans sorely needed a drive like the opener against the Titans, notably with Yates at the helm. "You know in that first half, especially the first drive, we got back to playing the way we thought we could play," Texans left tackle Duane Brown said. "We were the most physical team out there. We ran the ball when we wanted to, and even when T.J. went down, he had a heck of a drive and got us in a scoring position. That was important for us." Said Yates, who practiced without complication Tuesday: "It was good. We came out very aggressive, moved the ball right down the field just kind of like we wanted to: a mixed bag of running the ball and throwing the ball and doing what we needed to do to get the ball in the end zone." To label the Texans' offense as resurgent might border on hyperbole, but there was a jolt of confidence from what was accomplished early on Sunday. Now that Johnson is back in the fold and right guard Mike Brisiel is expected to return after missing three games with a broken leg, the Texans are as close to whole offensively as possible. Schaub remains absent, but the other pieces to their potent offense are in place. For a team that endured such a dismal stretch of production, every little bit helps. A return to health combined with one drive that flashed potential is all that's required for the Texans to boost their confidence. "Well, anytime you see 80 (Johnson) in there, it's just a comforting feeling," Texans Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster said. "He got to play a little bit last week to get him that feel back in. Mike's been a part of the core of our team for the majority of the season, and to get him back is big. "I think that our offense never really lacks confidence because I think that comes from the head (Kubiak) down. He's confident in everybody who he has on his team, and it kind of bleeds and trickles down to everybody that plays." Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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