INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Houston running back Arian Foster took the Colts by surprise in the Texans’ stunning Week 1 victory.
He’s the center of attention heading into the rematch Monday night.
The Texans established themselves as an emerging team last season with Matt Schaub’s arm and Andre Johnson’s hands, but Houston began this season by unleashing the virtually unknown Foster on Indianapolis. The second-year pro ran for 231 yards and three touchdowns in Houston’s 34-24 win that helped the Texans gain league-wide credibility.
For the Colts, losing to Houston for just the second time in 17 meetings was painful enough, but getting manhandled made it worse.
“They had a good game plan,” Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said. “I don’t think you ever want to give a running back 200 yards, so that kind of sticks with us a little bit that they were able to pound the ball that much on the ground.”
The Colts turned out to be the first of many teams to get shredded by Foster. The undrafted free agent ranks second in the AFC with 635 yards rushing and leads the conference in yards from scrimmage. If the Colts don’t figure out how to stop him, their chances of winning the AFC South for the seventh time in nine years will be slim. They are 0-2 in the division, including the loss to the Texans in the opener.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has a depleted corps of pass catchers. Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark has had season-ending surgery on his right wrist. Receiver Austin Collie will sit out after having surgery on his right thumb. Running back Joseph Addai is doubtful after injuring a nerve in his left shoulder, and his backup, Donald Brown, is questionable with a hamstring injury.
No matter who suits up for Indianapolis, all the Texans see are the horseshoes on the Colts’ helmets. A win for the Texans would give them a significant boost in their quest to make their first playoff appearance and their first sweep in the series.
“They’ve been that juggernaut in this division for years, and they’ve been our Achilles’ heel here in Houston, so the fact that we have that chance and we’re looking at the opportunity is big for us,” Foster said.
While the Colts respect Foster, they say he wasn’t a one-man show when the teams met in Houston.
“It was the offensive line, it was play calling in situations, it was a lot of self-inflicted things,” Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. “We’re going to go out there understanding that they have success. Not just against us, he’s having success against other teams. That’s definitely going to be a focus of ours.”
The Texans ran for 257 yards in the previous meeting, and Schaub only attempted 17 passes. Brackett doesn’t expect that to happen again.
“I think we’ve gotten better since we played that game, and every week, we’ve been improving, so I think Monday night will be the tale of how much improvement we’ve made from that Week 1 game,” he said.
The Colts still expect the Texans to try to establish the run.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to stick to the script that got them the win the first game,” cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. “We just want to play better than we did last time. We’re going to start by stopping the run, rallying to the ball, then forcing a team to throw, then that’s when we’re at our best.”
Hayden said it starts with better tackling among the front seven. In the season opener, two of Indy’s top three tacklers were defensive backs.
“We don’t want to be the guys leading the team in tackles at the end of the game,” he said. “We just want to be on the same page. I think that was our problem the first game — guys were trying to do a little extra, do their job, plus. We just want to ask everybody to do their job, play fast and physical and we’ll be fine.”
The fact that the Texans have become a successful running team is a dramatic departure from last season. Houston ranked 30th out of 32 teams in yards rushing per game in rushing last season, but now ranks fifth. Foster said defenses now sometimes put as many as nine players at the line of scrimmage.
“We didn’t have a good season running the ball last year, so I think we emphasized it this year,” he said. “It was one of our goals to be a better running team, and we’ve done that so far, so we’ve got to keep going.”
The Colts still respect Schaub and Johnson. Schaub has passed for 1,538 yards and nine touchdowns. Johnson has 32 catches for 488 yards and two scores. The week after Foster gouged the Colts, Schaub passed for 497 yards and three touchdowns and Johnson caught 12 passes for 158 yards and a score in an overtime win against Washington.
“They’re a great team offensively,” Brackett said. “They can run the ball, they can throw the ball. As a defense, we’re ready for the challenge, and we’re going to accept it.”