Texans' ground game gains importance

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

In Gary Kubiak's seventh season as Houston's coach, the Texans have become more of a running team than a passing team.
One reason the Texans are 5-1 entering Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens at Reliant Stadium is because they continue to lead the NFL in average time of possession at 34 minutes and 54 seconds. They've ranked first or second in that statistic all season.
The Texans have run the ball 211 times, second to the New England Patriots. They're thrown 205 passes. They've accumulated their rushing yards the hard way. They average 3.8 yards a carry, which ranks 24th.
Arian Foster is second in the NFL with 561 rushing yards, but his 3.8-yard average per carry is the worst among the league's top 15 runners. Because of Foster's eight touchdowns, including seven rushing, the Texans rank fifth in scoring.
The Texans' passing game hasn't been as prolific as in recent seasons. Quarterback Matt Schaub has thrown only eight touchdown passes in six games. He's throwing the ball away more when his receivers are covered.
Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, the starting receivers, have combined for 40 catches. Six NFL players have more receptions than Johnson and Walter combined. The duo also has combined for three touchdowns.
Johnson and Walter, both of whom are 31, don't seem to get open against man coverage the way they used to. They seem to be more effective against zone coverage.
The Texans are 14th in total offense, sixth in rushing and tied for 18th in passing. Expect them to try to run against the Ravens, who are 26th in defense, including 26th against the run.
Even if linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Ladarius Webb had not been injured, the Texans still would have a game plan that emphasized the run. Until the Ravens prove they can stop the run, don't expect Schaub to throw much.
If the Ravens muscle up and contain Foster and Ben Tate, the Texans will have to win the game with Schaub's passing.
If the Texans defeat the Ravens for the first time -- Baltimore is 6-0 against them counting the postseason -- they'll have the best record in the AFC.