The Houston Texans take a lot of pride in being able to control the ball. They lead the NFL with an average time of possession of 35 minutes, 23 seconds. They ranked first last season, too.
Coach Gary Kubiak believes it's a necessity for an offense to have two good running backs it can count on if it plans to run effectively and use the clock.
Houston has one back it can count on, Arian Foster, because Ben Tate has had trouble staying healthy.
The Texans, who have a 6-1 record that's the best in the AFC, returned from their bye week and began preparations for Sunday's home game against the Buffalo Bills.
The only injured player Kubiak is concerned about is Tate, who has run well in only two games because of injuries. He got over a toe injury and was productive in the victory against Baltimore before the break, but he suffered a pulled hamstring that could keep him out of the Buffalo game.
"My biggest level of concern with Tate is just keeping him on the field," Kubiak said. "It seems like it's been one thing after another. If it's not the toe, (it's) the hamstring. This has been going on for a few years."
Kubiak sounded frustrated with Tate's latest injury.
"We need him," Kubiak said. "He's very important to getting Arian (Foster) rest (and to) our success as a team. Yet he's really struggled to stay on the field. There's nothing he can do about it. He's got another hamstring that we're going to have to monitor and bring him along the right way.
"He's going to miss some time here, so you're not going to see him back in the next day or two. I think he's going to miss a little time. He's been working as hard as he can work."
A second-round pick in 2010, Tate missed his rookie season with a broken foot. Last season, he was exceptional, spelling Foster when he was injured and rotating with him. The Texans almost had two 1,000-yard rushers.
This season, Tate has been limited to 43 carries for 178 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
If Tate can't play against the Bills, the Texans would use Justin Forsett behind Foster. Forsett has 23 carries for 120 yards (5.2 yards a carry).
"I have a lot of confidence in Justin, so I'm going to go play Arian and Justin just like I would Arian and Ben," Kubiak said. "I'm not going to do anything different right now, but to have two active running backs on your team with a nine-week stretch coming up, it's something we have to really take a hard look at."
The only other back the Texans have is rookie Davin Meggett, who's on the practice squad.
If Tate continues to get hurt, he'll reduce his chances of being traded and getting a new contract in the offseason. The Texans could keep him for a fourth season and risk losing him without compensation, or they could deal him for a draft choice before his contract expires.
"It's frustrating, especially just coming off of my toe injury, and then I hurt my hamstring. It's tough. I definitely feel like I'm getting better," Tate said.