As Arian Foster pounded the Jaguars into submission, puttingthe finishing touches on his franchise-record 12th 100-yard game and the Texans'second consecutive victory against an AFC South, it was easy to misremember thegenesis for that moment of inspired determination.
During the first quarter on Sunday, when the Jaguars' defensive front madetheir intentions of dominating the line of scrimmage known, the Texans couldhave bailed on their commitment to running the football. They did so threeweeks ago in a loss to the Raiders, opting to have quarterback Matt Schaubthrow the football 30 times in the second half after Oakland stifled theirvaunted ground game prior to intermission.
But this time the Texans did not relent. They persevered through earlier gainsfor meager yardage and through negative plays, and then they relished in theirability to chew four minutes and 57 seconds off the clock and add a field goal whenthe Jaguars desperately needed to reclaim possession of the ball. After thecurtain dropped on their 24-14 win at Reliant Stadium, the Texans earned theright to celebrate winning a critical battle within the game.
"They are good up front," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of theJaguars defense. "We knew they were good up front. We just stayed thecourse and kept banging and kept banging, and (Foster) did his best running atthe end of the game, which is what good backs do. That's what good teamsdo."
Foster didn't appeared primed for his 33-carry, 112-yard performance, not afterthe Texans totaled four rushes of zero or fewer yards in the first quarter. IfJaguars defensive tackles Terrance Knighton and C.J. Mosley weren't in theTexans' backfield, their linebackers were getting penetration. After covering80 yards on 12 plays during their initial possession (culminating in a 2-yardscoring run by Schaub), the Texans amassed just 48 yards over their ensuingfive.
They lost some their offensive balance for a spell, as Schaub completed just 2of 9 attempts for 32 yards during the stall. But when the second halfcommenced, the Texans renewed their commitment to Foster and their line. Intaking a 14-7 lead, the Texans ground their way through a nine-play, 44-yarddrive. They ran the ball four times on the possession, and then ran the ballfive consecutive times over their next two drives.
The crowd of 71,412 didn't always approve. After Ben Tate rushed for nine yardson first down with just over five minutes left in the third quarter, he andFoster were stopped for no gain on second and third down respectively. Therewas a smattering of boos as the offense strolled to the sideline, but thatineptitude was all part of a bigger plan.
The Texans were dominating the Jaguars defensively. Both of the Jaguars' touchdownscame following Texans turnovers, and all told Jacksonville needed to cover just34 yards to produce those 14 points.
Otherwise opportunities for advancement were few. One week after limiting theTitans to 148 total yards, the Texans held the Jaguars to 174. As a franchise,the Texans had never limited consecutive opponents to fewer than 200 yards.Realizing what was unfolding, the Texans stayed on the ground, killing theclock and shortening the game.
"It's tough, but when you have a defense that's playing as well as ourdefense is it makes it a little easier," Foster said. "You'reallotted some room for error. When they're playing that good, it helps us out alot."
The offense returned the favor at the most opportune time. After the Jaguarscut the deficit to seven points and ratcheted up the drama with 5:15 left toplay, the Texans eliminated all doubt. They covered 59 yards in nine plays enroute to the game-clinching field goal, but of greater significance was thefact that when the Jaguars regained possession, only 13 seconds remained on theclock. Tight end Owen Daniels accounted for 30 of those yards with hisshoestring catch-and-run, but it was Foster who bludgeoned that same Jaguars'front that seemed so in control while holding the Texans to seven runs of zeroor fewer yards.
Foster carried the ball seven times for 29 yards on that decisive drive. Whenthe Texans absolutely needed to run the ball effectively, they did. Through thegood and the bad, their confidence in their ability to do so never waned.
"I appreciate the coaches for keeping confidence and keeping faith inus," Texans left tackle Duane Brown said. "We knew they had ahigh-ranked defense, real stout in the run game. We broke off some big runs andwe had some points where we couldn't get things going, but we knew we had tostick with it. That's the basis of our offense, and coaches kept the faith inus."
Said Foster: "Our coaching staff put that trust in myself and theoffensive line and we got it done for the most part today. They were a verystout defense I think they were No. 6 in the league. Anytime you're able tohave any success on the ground against a defense like that you've got to patyourself on the back a little bit."