Backs add threat to Pa­tri­ots’ of­fense

Tex­ans

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - C

a rookie who re­turns Mon­day night af­ter sit­ting out a four-game sus­pen­sion for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL pol­icy on per­for­manceen­hanc­ing sub­stances, is sec­ond on the team with 234 yards rush­ing and two touch­downs.

“They’re very ca­pa­ble of run­ning the ball very well,” Ku­biak said.

And, of course, out­stand­ing throw­ing it.

Brady is hav­ing his usual strong sea­son with 25 touch­down passes and just four in­ter­cep­tions, and wide re­ceiver Wes Welker leads the NFL with 92 re­cep­tions.

That pair­ing could be a real prob­lem for Hous­ton with­out cor­ner­back Brice McCain, who had surgery on his left foot on Mon­day. Bran­don Har­ris, a sec­ond-year pro, will re­place him de­spite hav­ing played in just four games this sea­son.

“Welker has 92 catches and I don’t think Bran­don has 29 plays,” Hous­ton de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Wade Phillips said. “It’s a chal­lenge, cer­tainly. We ex­pect him to step up and play. We’re go­ing to try to help him in cer­tain ar­eas, but it’s go­ing to be oneon-one some. It’s go­ing to be one-on-one pass rush with our guys to put pres­sure on the guy and it’s go­ing to be one-on-one for our guys to cover them some­times. That’s just how it is.”

Bal­ance also is a strong point for the Tex­ans with Arian Fos­ter, the AFC’s lead­ing rusher with 1,102 yards, and An­dre John­son, sev­enth in the NFL with 74 catches.

“He’s a great player,” Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick said of John­son, a 10-year veteran. “He’s done it for a long time. He puts up big num­bers ev­ery year and peo­ple are key­ing on him. They’re look­ing for him and he keeps pro­duc­ing. He’s a hard guy to cover.”

And then there’s Fos­ter, the NFL leader with 15 touch­downs.

The Tex­ans dis­guise their plays well and make ef­fec­tive use of play ac­tion, which re­quires de­fend­ers to be well dis­ci­plined.

“Gary does a good job, scheme-wise, of balancing ev­ery­thing out — the run­ning game, the pass­ing game, play-ac­tions, drop­backs, com­ple­men­tary routes, com­ple­men­tary runs — ev­ery­thing kind of ties to­gether,” Belichick said.

The Pa­tri­ots and the Tex­ans are the only of­fenses ranked in the top 10 in yards rush­ing and pass­ing.

“If you’re stop­ping one thing, then you’re prob­a­bly light on some­thing else and it won’t take them too long to find that and ex­ploit it,” Belichick said.

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