2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Pats offensive balance a challenge for Texans

By HOWARD ULMAN - AP Sports Writer
    2012-12-09 14:45

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Stevan Ridley has emerged as a top running back in his second pro season. He's not the only Patriots rusher Texans coach Gary Kubiak has to worry about.

The revived New England ground game, with Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden as backups, has brought balance to an offense that relied more heavily on quarterback Tom Brady in recent years.

Ridley, in his second pro season, is third in the AFC with 1,010 yards rushing going into Monday night's game between the Texans (11-1), who have the best record in the AFC and have clinched a playoff berth, and the Patriots (9-3), who have locked up the AFC East title.

``He's a heck of a player,'' Kubiak said. ``They've had a few different backs back there. It's what they do. It's almost like anybody they put back there is successful. They play young guys. Tom has got them in the right play all the time. They're not only running the ball well, but those backs out of the backfield catch the ball extremely well.''

Vereen has rushed for just 173 yards and three touchdowns but has scored on an 83-yard pass play. Bolden, a rookie who returns Monday night after sitting out a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing 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 one-on-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 two 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. Johnson ``is definitely open on a few plays where it wouldn't matter who the receiver is, the guy is wide open and is going to make a big play. But there are also a lot of plays that he makes on his own.''

Fortunately for the Patriots, their weak pass defense has improved in recent weeks.

The acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib, who has played the past three games for the Patriots, from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has allowed Belichick to start Devin McCourty at safety rather than his usual cornerback spot, and he's solidified the secondary.

McCourty's interception in the end zone in the final minute secured the Patriots 37-31 win over the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 11. In their next game, cornerbacks Talib and Alfonzo Dennard returned interceptions for touchdowns in a 59-24 rout of the Indianapolis Colts.

``They're a very physical, stout group,'' Texans quarterback Matt Schaub said. ``They understand their scheme well, a lot of veteran guys that have played a lot of football in that group. They can rush the passer. They can stop the run. They can do a little bit of everything. It's a group that we really have to be on top of our game plan, on top of our stuff and play good road football.''

The Texans have done that better than any team this season. At 6-0, they're the only team with a perfect road record.

But the Patriots haven't lost a regular-season game in December since Dec. 22, 2002.

``The better you play, the better your homefield advantage is because the more the crowd is into it,'' Brady said. ``I think the mark of our teams over the years has been we've improved as the season has gone along. December is the last month to really improve.

``Coach puts pressure on us in practice every day to improve, to get better and not to make the same mistakes (and) to learn from our mistakes. I think we as a team have responded to that and played well. That's what's important this time of the year: to not make the same mistakes we were making in September and to play our best football. This will be a great week to see if we can accomplish that.''

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Ronnie HillmanOct 24 04:52p

Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman continues to run with confidence in the absence of RB Montee Ball (groin), and Ball will likely find it hard to win his starting [ More ]

Jo-Lonn DunbarOct 24 04:22p

St. Louis Rams C Tim Barnes (shoulder) and CB Brandon McGee (foot) are both out for Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs. CBs Janoris Jenkins (knee) and Trumaine [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 24 04:12p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) said he won't rush back to play until his ankle is fully healed. 'It's our job to help this team win, and [ More ]

Quentin GrovesOct 24 03:52p

Tennessee Titans CB Coty Sensabaugh (knee) and TE Taylor Thompson (knee) are listed as doubtful for Week 8. LB Quentin Groves (ankle) is listed as questionable, while DE Ropati [ More ]

A.J. GreenOct 24 02:22p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) did not practice again Friday, Oct. 24, and he's listed as doubtful for Week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens.

Trent RichardsonOct 24 02:02p

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the chances aren't looking good that he plays.

Mario WilliamsOct 24 01:52p

Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin) and LB Ty Powell (ankle) both did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and have been ruled out. WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) [ More ]

Calvin JohnsonOct 24 01:52p

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) will truly be a game-time decision against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8 in London. Johnson was limited in practice all week and [ More ]

Trent RichardsonOct 24 01:52p

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring) has been doing rehab work this week but hasn't practiced. He could be a game-time decision in Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Owen DanielsOct 24 01:22p

Baltimore Ravens TE Owen Daniels (knee) underwent a cleanup procedure on his knee and will not play in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Head coach John Harbaugh said [ More ]

Reggie WayneOct 24 01:02p

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow) has officially been ruled out for Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

J. BabineauxOct 24 12:32p

Atlanta Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux (foot) is questionable for Week 8 against the Detroit Lions in London. OOG Justin Blalock (back) and LB Prince Shembo (knee) are probable. Babineaux [ More ]

Darren SprolesOct 24 12:22p

Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee) practiced in full Friday, Oct. 24, and is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Brad SmithOct 24 12:22p

Philadelphia Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals. C Jason Kelce (hernia) and LB Mychal Kendricks (calf) are questionable, while [ More ]

Brandon PettigrewOct 24 12:22p

Detroit Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons in London. TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot) is doubtful. OT LaAdrian Waddle (concussion) [ More ]

A.J. GreenOct 24 11:42a

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) is not practicing Friday, Oct. 24. It's the third straight day he has missed practice, making it unlikely that he'll be able to play in Week 8.

Zac StacyOct 24 11:02a

St. Louis Rams RB Zac Stacy, who didn't have a touch in Week 7, could remain a factor in the backfield in Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs. [ More ]

Reggie BushOct 24 10:52a

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is listed as doubtful for the Week 8 game Sunday, Oct. 26.

Calvin JohnsonOct 24 10:52a

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) is listed as questionable for the Week 8 game Sunday, Oct. 26. Johnson was limited in practice Friday, Oct. 24.

Brandon PettigrewOct 24 09:22a

Detroit Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot) will be a game-time decision Sunday, Oct. 26. TE Joseph Fauria (ankle) is unlikely to play this weekend.

Eric EbronOct 24 09:22a

Detroit Lions TE Eric Ebron (hamstring) is likely out for Week 8, according to head coach Jim Caldwell. Ebron missed practice again Friday, Oct. 24.

Juwan ThompsonOct 24 12:22a

Denver Broncos RB Juwan Thompson had seven carries for 24 yards, including a pair of short touchdown runs, in the team's Week 8 victory Thursday, Oct 23.

Zach MettenbergerOct 23 11:22p

Tennessee Titans QB Zach Mettenberger prides himself in his strong arm, WR Kendall Wright said, and the team is hoping that Mettenberger can bring a new element to a [ More ]

Jason VerrettOct 23 11:12p

San Diego Chargers CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) has been ruled out for the remainder of the team's Week 8 game Thursday, Oct. 23, with a shoulder injury. He was [ More ]

Andre EllingtonOct 23 11:02p

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot) said the partially torn tendon in his foot probably won't feel better until after the year. 'I understand it's never going to feel [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 23 09:42p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) could return in Week 11, according to head coach Jay Gruden. 'I would think - I would guarantee Tampa, most likely, unless [ More ]

Don McGeeOct 23 08:52p

St. Louis Rams CB Janoris Jenkins (knee) and C Tim Barnes (shoulder) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 23. FS T.J. McDonald (concussion), LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar (toe), CB Trumaine Johnson [ More ]

Kevin WilliamsOct 23 08:32p

Seattle Seahawks DE Michael Bennett (toe), DT Kevin Williams (undisclosed), WR Bryan Walters (concussion), CB Byron Maxwell (calf) and C Max Unger (foot) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 23. [ More ]

Frostee RuckerOct 23 07:42p

Arizona Cardinals DE Calais Campbell (knee) and S Rashad Johnson (knee) were limited participants in practice Thursday, Oct. 23. TE Troy Niklas (ankle) did not participate in practice and [ More ]

Johnathan JosephOct 23 07:22p

Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing (knee), CB Darryl Morris (ankle) and LBs Brooks Reed (groin), John Simon (ankle) and Jeff Tarpinian (knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 23. LB [ More ]

Calais CampbellOct 23 07:12p

Arizona Cardinals DE Calais Campbell (knee) returned to practice and was limited Thursday, Oct. 23. Campbell injured his right medial collateral ligament in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos.

Kapri BibbsOct 23 07:02p

The Denver Broncos have declared OG Ben Garland, RB Kapri Bibbs, OT Michael Schofield, DL Mitch Unrein, RB Montee Ball, S Omar Bolden, LB Steven Johnson inactive for Week 8.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group