The absence of TE Garrett Graham, one of the more underrated blocking tight ends in the league, prevented Houston from using Foster on outside zone runs. Instead, the Texans were forced to attack the strength of the Patriots' defense up the middle against behemoth DTs Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love. Of the Texans' 27 runs in the loss, 22 were between the tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
Graham has appeared in the Texans' past three games after missing the Patriots' loss with a concussion. Last week, Graham suffered another concussion when he was crunched by Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict on a helmet-to-helmet hit. Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Friday that Graham passed his final concussion test and was cleared by doctors for Sunday's AFC Divisional playoff game at New England.
|The home of the Super Bowl|
If Graham returns, Foster may have better success in getting to the outside. The Patriots rank third in the league in defending runs up the middle (3.14 ypc), according to NFLGSIS.com but are 24th in defending runs toward the left sideline (6.15 ypc).
“They have very fast, athletic linebackers and then they have safeties that fit well in the run game,” Foster said. “That's what makes them effective.”
Although Patriots coach Bill Belichick was impressed with how his backs simulated Foster's vision and patience last week in practice, he indicated it was more of a challenge for the scout team offensive line to replicate the Texans' zone-blocking scheme.
“It's usually harder to get the blocking schemes exactly the way the other team does it,” Belichick said. “You have to try to get all those guys coordinated.”
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed, watch Pro Football 360 daily at 3 p.m. ET and NFL newsletter. You can also follow Matt Rybaltowski @mattrybaltowski