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

Knowshon MorenoSep 2 09:33a

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Miller totaled nearly 20 percent (140 yards) of his season yardage total (709 yards) on his longest four carries of the 2013 season. He had [ More ]

J.J. WattSep 2 04:23a

The Houston Texans signed DL J.J. Watt to a new long-term contract on Monday, Sept. 1. Watt's extension is a six-year deal worth $100 million, of which $51.876 million is guaranteed money.

Kyle Van NoySep 2 04:23a

Detroit Lions LB Kyle Van Noy (core muscle) could miss as many as eight games as he recovers from core muscle surgery. He could be placed on short-term IR as a result.

Josh BoyceSep 2 03:12a

The New England Patriots signed LB Jake Bequette, DL Deontae Skinner, OL Chris Martin, S Kanorris Davis, LS Charley Hughlett, CB Daxton Swanson and WR Josh Boyce to the [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsSep 2 01:02a

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs) said he felt fine after practice Monday, Sept. 1, and hopes to be on the field in Week 1.

A.J. EddsSep 2 12:43a

The New York Jets re-signed LB A.J. Edds Monday, Sept. 1.

Kevin DorseySep 2 12:03a

The Green Bay Packers signed WR Kevin Dorsey, C Garth Gerhart, WR Alex Gillett, RB Michael Hill, LB Adrian Hubbard and DE Luther Robinson to the practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Tim BenfordSep 1 11:52p

The Dallas Cowboys signed WR Tim Benford, DE Kenneth Boatright, C Ronald Patrick, CB Micah Pellerin, LB Keith Smith, LB William Smith and FB Nikita Whitlock to the practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Devon StillSep 1 10:42p

The Cincinnati Bengals signed OT Dan France, TE Kevin Greene, WR Cobi Hamilton, DT David King, WR Colin Lockett, CB Onterio McCalebb, DE Sam Montgomery, C Trevor Robinson, DT [ More ]

Isaiah FreySep 1 10:33p

The Chicago Bears signed WR Josh Bellamy, C Taylor Boggs, DT Brandon Dunn, DB Isaiah Frey, OG Ryan Groy, LB DeDe Lattimore, DB Albert Louis-Jean, DB Terrance Mitchell, DE [ More ]

Bryan WaltersSep 1 09:33p

The Seattle Seahawks re-signed free-agent WR Bryan Walters (Seahawks) to a contract Monday, Sept. 1. Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

J. CunninghamSep 1 09:33p

The St. Louis Rams re-signed TE Justice Cunningham (ankle) and placed him on the season-ending reserve/injured list Monday, Sept. 1.

Quentin GrovesSep 1 09:33p

The Tennessee Titans signed free-agent LB Quentin Groves (Texans) to an undisclosed contract Monday, Sept. 1.

Charles JohnsonSep 1 09:23p

Free-agent C Josh Allen (Buccaneers), C Thomas Austin (Colts), OG Karim Barton (Browns), CB Akeem Davis (Redskins), LB Larry Dean (Vikings), TE Richard Gordon (Dolphins), TE Marcel Jensen (Vikings), [ More ]

Michael SamSep 1 08:02p

The Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League owns the rights to free-agent DE Michael Sam (Rams). The team has reached out to him, but there is no word [ More ]

Jeremiah GeorgeSep 1 08:02p

The New York Jets placed LB Jeremiah George on no-recall waivers Monday, Sept. 1.

Tim FuggerSep 1 08:02p

The New York Jets placed DE Tim Fugger (ankle) on no-recall waivers from the reserve/injured list Monday, Sept. 1, and he received an injury settlement.

Phil BatesSep 1 08:02p

The Seattle Seahawks placed WR Phil Bates on no-recall waivers Monday, Sept. 1.

Don JonesSep 1 08:02p

The New England Patriots claimed CB Don Jones (Dolphins) off waivers Monday, Sept. 1.

Derek CarrSep 1 06:42p

Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr will be the starting quarterback Week 1.

Charles JohnsonSep 1 05:42p

The Cleveland Browns signed free-agents WR Charles X. Johnson (Browns) and OG Karim Barton (Browns) to their practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Khalid WootenSep 1 05:32p

The Tennessee Titans signed free-agent CB Khalid Wooten (Titans) to their practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Phillip AdamsSep 1 04:52p

The New York Jets signed free-agents CB Phillip Adams (Seahawks) and released WR Quincy Enunwa Monday, Sept. 1.

Korey ToomerSep 1 04:22p

The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent LB Korey Toomer (Seahawks) and released CB Jemea Thomas Monday, Sept. 1.

Case KeenumSep 1 04:22p

The St. Louis Rams claimed QB Case Keenum off waivers from the Houston Texans Monday, Sept. 1.

Ryan SuccopSep 1 04:22p

The Tennessee Titans signed free-agent PK Ryan Succop (Chiefs) to an undisclosed deal and released PK Travis Coons Monday, Sept. 1.

James IhedigboSep 1 04:22p

Detroit Lions SS James Ihedigbo (leg), FS Don Carey (undisclosed) and LB Kyle Van Noy (abdomen) did not practice Monday, Sept. 1.

Garrett GilbertSep 1 04:03p

The St. Louis Rams signed free-agents QB Garrett Gilbert (Rams), LB Kevin Reddick (Saints), SS Matt Daniels (Rams), LB Denicos Allen (Panthers) and OT Sean Hooey (Rams) to their practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Bruce IrvinSep 1 03:52p

Seattle Seahawks WR Kevin Norwood (foot) and LB Bruce Irvin (hip) may play Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Corey PetersSep 1 03:32p

Atlanta Falcons DT Corey Peters (Achilles') is still iffy for the regular season opener. Head coach Mike Smith said he wants Peters to practice in pads Wednesday, Sept. 3, before making a decision.

Trai TurnerSep 1 03:12p

Carolina Panthers OG Trai Turner (groin) will start at right guard Sunday, Sept. 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to head coach Ron Rivera, though C Fernando Velasco may spot him at times.

Kyle WilliamsSep 1 03:02p

The Kansas City Chiefs released WR Kyle Williams Monday, Sept. 1.

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