How stout is Houston’s fifth-ranked rushing defense? We’re about to find out on Sunday afternoon at Reliant Stadium.
Despite the Texans struggles against the pass (329.6 avg. for a 32nd league ranking), the Chiefs plan on playing to their biggest offensive strength this weekend, even if the stats say it opposes the strength of their opponent. The heart of Kansas City’s offense begins and ends with its run game, and the effort in South Texas won’t be any different.
“We go into every game, the first thing we try to do is establish the run,” Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis said. “That’s what we try to do and the passing game springs off of there. Just because statistically, you look at a team yardage-wise and say, ok that’s what you’re going to do – throw it every down, a lot of times it has to do with the teams they’ve played and what those teams do.”
Houston’s opponents have gone to the air with great success; some in copy-cat fashion. But let’s take a brief look at the Texans’ rushing competition to date.
Game One vs. Indianapolis: 44 rushing yards allowed
Everything the Colts do is filtered through Peyton Manning. Their run game is a compliment, at best, to a focused passing attack. Indy neglected the run, only attempting 10 rushes on the day; all carries by Joseph Addai.
Game Two at Washington: 33 rushing yards allowed
The Redskins went “Air McNabb,” throwing the ball nearly 40 times for over 400 yards and attempting only 17 rushes. This season, Washington is a top-10 passing team, but ranks 25th with their rushing attack. As a side note, Chiefs fans that look at this game’s stat sheet will see Larry Johnson’s two carry day for negative seven yards.
Game Three vs. Dallas: 101 rushing yards allowed
Dallas’ offensive exposed Houston, turning in a balanced attack that saw 27 runs and 30 passes. The Cowboys were the first team to commit to the run against the Texans, utilizing a two-back system similar to Kansas City’s. Meanwhile, Tony Romo was on-point, connecting on 23-of-30 passes for 2 TDs and a 127.6 QB rating.
On the year, Dallas has not been a formidable rushing offense, averaging less than 100 yards on the ground per contest.
Game Four at Oakland: 118 rushing yards allowed
Oakland’s seventh-ranked rushing attack churned out 4.7 yards per carry on 25 attempts. The number likely would have been higher if the game didn’t dictate the Raiders to throw the ball 39 times while playing from behind.
Game Five vs. N.Y. Giants: 117 rushing yards allowed
Both of New York’s runners averaged over 4.0 yards per carry in this one as Eli Manning threw for nearly 300 yards. The Giant’s run game is respectable, ranking just outside the NFL’s top-10, and played a big part in New York’s 34-10 thumping of the Texans at Reliant Stadium.
After taking a closer look at each of Houston’s first five games, have the Texans really stopped the run, or have their opponents dictated their own rushing outputs?
Through their first two games of 2010,the Texans only gave up a combined 77 yards on the ground, but their opponents made little-to-no effort to run the football in those contests. Since then, each team opposing the Texans has gained over 100 rushing yards per contest and the two best rushing teams (neither of which has the run game of Kansas City) both saw their backs post impressive yards per attempt averages.
“I think it’s important to understand that those (rushing) statistics sometimes will be misleading because of who they’ve played and if you get a team that’s a little heavier throw team like Indianapolis is this year, so far, they have been, then it’s what comes first, the chicken or the egg?” said Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. “Are they throwing in their games because they couldn’t run, are they throwing because they think they can throw, you don’t know. I don’t have those answers. I think you have to be a little careful getting too overburdened statistically with this team because they’ve been more pass efforts than run efforts to start.”
Going further, the Texans’ defense has given up the 29th-most points in the league (27.2 avg. points per game) and ranks 31st in total defense (409.2 avg. yards per game). Do those numbers coincide with a physical defense that imposes their will on an opponents’ run game?
Who knows, maybe the Texans will come out and hit the Chiefs in the mouth. Maybe Houston will keep
They may do all of that, and it would certainly make a difficult day for the Chiefs in Houston. But one things is for sure; Houston won’t be stopping the run because the Chiefs didn’t test them first.