Although the Texans have struggled running the ball the past two weeks against a pair of stout defensive fronts — the Raiders and Ravens — and without No. 1 wideout Andre Johnson, who often commands a safety over the top, the O-line is finally starting to garner praise for being one of the league's more effective units. With the exception of OLG Wade Smith, who came over from Kansas City following the 2009 season, the group has been intact since '08 and has steadily improved each season.
"It helps a tremendous amount [to have that continuity]," OLT Duane Brown told PFW by phone Oct. 19. "It is all about chemistry, having guys on the same page, and we have done a great job of that for the most part."
Houston has plenty of offensive firepower, including Johnson, QB Matt Schaub and TE Owen Daniels, but the success of the offense begins up front by running the football. Few teams in the league are more effective than the Texans in using the play-action pass, a testament to the respect paid to RB Arian Foster and the ground game. Houston's zone-blocking scheme requires stretching the front side of the defense and cutting on the backside to create cutback lanes for Foster. In order to get back to running effectively like they were earlier in the season, the Texans simply need to work on finishing plays, according to Brown.
"There was a big point of emphasis this week on finishing our plays, finishing our blocks, trying to get one extra foot —an extra 7-8 inches — to get some extra push and create a seam for our backs."
Finishing games is also a huge priority — the Texans have been outscored 59-31 in the fourth quarter.
Brown said the Texans are fortunate to be in a battle for the division despite letting a few games slip away, pointing to the fact that they haven't laid down in any of those losses, and it seems to be a more confident group this season.
"We believe, that's the No. 1 thing," said Brown, Houston's first-round pick in '08. "We haven't gotten it done every week but we're letting that go quickly and moving on, whereas in years past we kind of let that feeling linger."
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