Andre Johnson, Arian Foster share the spotlight

Andre Johnson jumped to the fore and seized the lead role early, then Arian Foster took over late. Foster would call their shared co-starring role for the Texans’ offense “a thing of beauty.”

Throw in another “monster-mode” effort by the defense’s resident force of nature, J. J. Watt, and we can call the 12-2 Texans AFC South champions. The Indianapolis Colts, who were the last threat to same, went down 29-17 on an afternoon when both Foster and Johnson exceeded 150 yards, something they’d never before done in the same game.

“You want an offense that can win in the air and on the ground,” said Foster, who ran for 165 to Johnson’s 151 receiving. “I think that’s what (head coach Gary) Kubiak envisioned when he put this team together. When you’re firing on all cylinders like that (you’re) tough to beat.

“The players are making plays and the coaches are putting us in position to make plays. I think it’s a tribute to the organization’s eye for talent.”

Foster and Johnson proved to be perfect bookends on a day the Texans used to rinse their mouths after a disastrous visit to New England last Monday night. Two plays in, Matt Schaub’s already had two completions to the latter – the second for 52 yards on a spectacular catch in heavy traffic – and the Texans were perched at the Colts’ 19. Only a field goal resulted, but it provided a 3-0 lead.

Houston is 8-0 this season when getting on the scoreboard first.

Johnson already had seven receptions for 107 yards by halftime, while Foster was off to a sluggish start, gaining only 34 on 11 rushes. But things went exactly the other way in the fourth quarter when Foster averaged 8.8 on his nine carries – despite being deprived of a 27-yard touchdown sprint that wiped out by left guard Wade Smith’s hold. Unfazed by the penalty, which Smith admitted was the right call, Foster picked up where he’d left off with four minutes left and carried on seven successive plays for 75 yards, setting up the victory-clinching field goal.

Indy quarterback Andrew Luck would be left with just 65 seconds to try to make up two scores. Even the Colts’ Comeback Kid himself couldn’t pull that off.
“We have to close out games as an offense,” Foster said. “Everybody’s tired at the end. Everybody is at 70 percent, 80 percent. But your 70 percent has to be better than somebody else’s 70 percent. You have to find a way to dig deeper. That’s my mindset. I’ve been like that since I was a kid. It’s just part of how I train . . . to be at my best when everybody else is tired and I’m tired. I take a lot of pride in that.”

So did a fellow named Earl Campbell, who closed out plenty of games following the same script for the Houston Oilers. You keep hammering away with the likes of Campbell and Foster and the most stalwart of defenses will stagger. Something has to give.

Johnson said he grabbed Foster when the Texans regained possession and told him, “Just run us home.”

The Texans’ consummate under-appreciated grunt up front, center Chris Myers, explained why the offense was able to finish like it did. Life is a lot easier when you’re not having to play catch-up, as had been the case in the 42-14 drubbing by the Patriots on Monday night.

“When it came to that last drive, we opened up some holes and Arian just took off with some breakout runs,” Myers said. “That’s how it works. You pound, pound, pound, grind, grind, grind and finally you bust out. You tap ‘em for four yards here, three yards there . . . a few no gainers. But, as long as you stay true to what you do, those bust-out runs are going to come.

“We haven’t had a run like (Foster’s negated TD) in awhile. But you can get a feel for how the game is going, when the defense is kind of back on their heels a little bit. (The Colts) were on that last drive and we took advantage of it.”

Quarterback Matt Schaub seemed to be on the same wave length.

“You just stick with the game plan,” he said. “We had some hard times finding holes with the run game early, even through the third quarter. But those 3-, 4-yard runs can turn into big ones, and they did in the second half.”

Of Johnson’s explosive start Schaub said, ‘Dre just did what he’s done his whole career. (On the second-down bomb) we had a play fake, a little ‘boot’ going on. We sold the fake really hard and he just popped wide open, got behind everybody. I was trying to give him a chance to make a play. It a closely contested ball but he came up with it.”

The Texans’ offensive players routinely talk about how much they enjoy watching Watt wreaking havoc. The second-year defensive, on everyone’s short list for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, repaid the compliment when asked how much pleasure he gleaning from seeing Foster hammer his way downfield, leaving Colts strewn in his path.

“When our offense can end the game on the field with a huge drive like, that’s the way we love it,” Watt said. “Watching ‘Dre starting out the game, then Arian running (at the end) . . . I love this team. We can get you three different ways – offense, defense, special teams – and there’s a love for each other (in the locker room) and a genuine team chemistry.”

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