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Texans 30, 49ers 7: Optimism Abounds Despite Foster Injury

Mostly smiles around the Texans these days.
Mostly smiles around the Texans these days.
Photo by Marco Torres

The top goal for any preseason game is to avoid injuries to key players. In that sense, the Texans failed during Saturday's romp in San Francisco, losing Arian Foster to a re-aggravated hamstring strain.

Yet, the panic in Texan Land is minimal at best. For once, Gary Kubiak's crew has a system in place that seems poised to remain among the league's elite, regardless of departures.

Foster did look himself on Saturday, rushing eight times for 38 yards while adding a 12-yard catch out of the backfield. His cuts were precise as ever.

But when Foster angrily stormed off the field after his latest hamstring pull, Ben Tate and others were there to pick up the slack. Tate carried 11 times for 52 yards, following up his eye-popping nine attempts for 95 yards and a score against New Orleans.

Among other backs, Derrick Ward scored a touchdown and Chris Ogbonnaya ran for more than five yards per carry. On the whole, the Texans had 417 total yards Saturday -- 172 of those coming on the ground.

"When you move the ball and get 260 yards in a half in the National Football League, something good is happening," Kubiak said.

Those 260 first-half yards helped the Texans roll to a 24-7 halftime lead that was never threatened, allowing Houston to cruise to its first 3-0 start in franchise history.

The new-look defense from Wade Phillips pitched a shutout and looked spectacular, but that's to be expected against a Niners group missing its two biggest weapons (Frank Gore, Vernon Davis) and alternating Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.

As such, their test will come another day. After all, even last year's pathetic group was able to shut out the Rusty Smith-led Titans.

On the other hand, San Francisco did boast the No. 6 run defense in the entire NFL a year ago, and the Texans had a major test with Foster mostly unavailable.

They passed with flying colors, led by an offensive line that continues to be among the league's best.

"It was a good night," said right tackle Eric Winston. "I think everyone just did their jobs, we went out and moved the ball well."

The only back to somewhat struggle was Ward, who aside from the touchdown averaged only 2.5 yards per carry and lost a fumble.

But Ward looked out of shape to begin 2010 and ended up as the team's primary backup to Foster, averaging a career-best 6.3 yards per rush.

That's how strong the offensive line is. That's how much respect that Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and the rest of the Houston passing offense commands.

Even if Ward can't replicate his 2010, Tate and Ogbonnaya are proving quite capable of filling in.

It's not to say that Foster is completely replaceable. His one-cut style is perfect for the Texans' zone-blocking scheme, and he'll eventually be needed for Houston to be a great team.

In the meantime, though, the Texans have enough to be a very good team even with limited contributions from their top back.

With the regular season's first two games against Indianapolis (likely without Peyton Manning) and Miami, very good should be enough. As a result, the prudent course of action would be limiting Foster's workload until the hamstring has time to fully heal.

In a normal year, that's a luxury the Texans couldn't afford with one of their most dynamic players.

But if the preseason is any indicator, things are far from the norm for Kubiak and the Texans.


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