Tal­ented Tex­ans likely to keep de­fense guess­ing

Of­fense’s bal­ance will present a predica­ment in Mon­day night game.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - Tony Romo was slow to get up af­ter be­ing sacked by the Philadel­phia Ea­gles last Sun­day. TONY Gutierrez / ap

FoXBoRoUGH, MASS. — Vince Wil­fork’s big­gest chal­lenge when he lines up against the Hous­ton Tex­ans’ pow­er­ful of­fense could come be­fore the ball is even snapped. Will they pass or run? The of­fen­sive line isn’t likely to give much of an in­di­ca­tion against New Eng­land on Mon­day night.

“They do a real good job up front of show­ing you the same look on run and pass,” the Pa­tri­ots de­fen­sive tackle said Thurs­day, “so we’re just go­ing to have to rely on tech­nique, good fun­da­men­tals.”

Then, once Matt Schaub hands the ball to Arian Fos­ter or throws it to An­dre John­son, the hard work con­tin­ues for the Pa­tri­ots (9-3) against the Tex­ans (11-1) in the matchup of teams with six-game win­ning streaks and de­signs on first-round play­off byes.

Fos­ter leads the NFL with 15 touch­downs and the AFC with 1,102 yards rush­ing. John­son is tied for fourth in the NFL with 1,114 yards re­ceiv­ing and is alone in fourth in the AFC with 74 catches.

“They’re a very well balanced team,” Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick said. “If you’re stop­ping the run, you’re light on the play-ac­tion (pass­ing at­tack). If you’re stop­ping the play-ac­tion, you’re prob­a­bly light on the run. They do a good job of ty­ing those plays to­gether, com­ple­ment­ing each other and mak­ing you de­fend all of it.”

Fos­ter has rushed for more than 100 yards in six of Hous­ton’s 12 games. He’s also the Tex­ans’ No. 3 re­ceiver with 30 catches, two of them for touch­downs.

“I had him out in the Pro Bowl a cou­ple years ago,” Belichick said. “You’ve got to be able to tackle his quick­ness and his ath­leti­cism, but also have to be able to tackle his size and power to run through arm tack­les. He’s got a good set of skills.” Much like John­son. The 6-foot-3, 230pound re­ceiver is av­er­ag­ing 78 catches in his 10 NFL sea­sons since be­ing taken with the third pick of the 2003 draft out of Mi­ami, where he played with Wil­fork, who was drafted with the 21st pick the next year.

“He has the heart of a cham­pion,” Wil­fork said. “I just re­mem­ber play­ing with him in col­lege. He was al­ways quiet, but he was a fire­ball on the field.”

Schaub also can throw to tight end Owen Daniels, sec­ond on the team with 50 catches, and Kevin Wal­ters. And he can hand the ball off to Ben Tate and Justin Forsett, who are part of the NFL’s sixth most pro­duc­tive run­ning game.

“The quar­ter­back will get the ball to the ap­pro­pri­ate re­ceiver based on cov­er­age or based on read for that par­tic­u­lar play so he’s not al­ways tar­get­ing one guy,” Pa­tri­ots de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Pa­tri­cia said.

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