Ground Game Hitting Its Stride
Green, Slaton Seek to Exploit Browns' Weaknesses Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Chron.com

Green, Slaton Seek to Exploit Browns' Weaknesses

While Steve Slaton tried to carry on as if he could easily manage a 16-game season, Texans coach Gary Kubiak could see his rookie running back struggling.

Instead of having Slaton run until his legs could no longer churn out the yards, Kubiak took a risk for the team and rested him against Baltimore two weeks ago. He gave the rookie only four carries and told him to take a break.

Without their starting running back — and any sort of running game — the Texans suffered their most lopsided loss of the season to the Ravens, 41-13. But a week later, Slaton rattled off 156 rushing yards in a 33-27 loss to Indianapolis. It was the best day of his NFL career and the best outing in the league by a running back over the weekend.

"It really did help me to rest," said Slaton, whose 71-yard touchdown run against the Colts was the longest in team history. "You don’t really realize how much football I’ve played so far just being a rookie now. Last week definitely helped me."

Golden opportunity
The Texans hope the rejuvenation can continue this week as they take on a Cleveland team that has struggled to contain running backs. The Browns’ defense ranks 28th in the league against the run, allowing 149.3 yards per game.

Slaton may not top what he accomplished against the Colts, but the Texans hope the combination of Slaton and Ahman Green can lead the Texans to their first road win of the season.

“In the short-yardage type of stuff, Ahman has a little more weight to him and has got a little more power and little more feel for those situations to get those first downs and touchdowns,” quarterback Sage Rosenfels said. “But in open space, there are not many guys that are better in the league than Steve right now.”

Slaton is tied for fourth among NFL running backs with eight carries of 20 yards or more. His 5.1 average yards per carry ties him for second among the 18 backs in the league who have at least 550 rushing yards.

“Sometimes there’s an advantage of being smaller, and (Tampa Bay running back) Warrick Dunn will say that,” Rosenfels said. “(Slaton’s) 200 pounds, which is pretty small for an NFL running back, but he does a great job of staying low. He’s got great balance and keeping his feet. He does have that little sort of Warrick Dunn-type of running style.”

With Green healthy now, the Texans have the type of running game they have been searching for since Kubiak arrived in 2006.

Doing the dirty work
Green, who has already played in more games (seven) than he did last year, has 255 rushing yards on 61 attempts (4.2 yards per carry). He had nine carries for 17 yards and two TDs on Sunday.

“There’s not big numbers for him out there,” Kubiak said. “He did the dirty work and some short-yardage situations and down on the goal line. He’s giving us everything he’s got and when he’s healthy he’s pretty darn good. It sure looks like he’s healthy right now.”

Green enjoys watching his younger counterpart.

“Awesome,” he said of Slaton’s showing Sunday. “He is showing what he used to do back in West Virginia. I’m excited because it’s a 1-2 punch. ... When the offensive line is blocking the way they are, it makes things a lot easier.”


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