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Dissing Arian Foster

Disrespecting Arian Foster doesn't hurt Texans this time: Trashes split carry idea with clutch play

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Arian Foster Texans TD bow
Arian Foster had the ball when it counted most against the Titans. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Arian Foster Texans Batman
Houston Texans tailback Arian Foster looked like a super hero on the two-point conversion. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Arian Foster Texans Titans run
Arian Foster got 19 carries against a tough Titans defense. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Arian Foster Texans Titans
When the going got tough, Arian Foster found a way to get the most important yards against the Titans. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Arian Foster Texans Chargers jump
Arian Foster found himself up in the air in Week One against the San Diego Chargers. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Ben Tate Texans Chargers
Ben Tate averaged more yards per carry than Arian Foster in San Diego. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Arian Foster Texans Chargers run
Arian Foster is still a Pro Bowler and one of the most unique weapons in the NFL. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Arian Foster Texans Chargers move
It wasn't his best night, but Arian Foster still made a few highlights — including on a great one-handed catch. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Arian Foster Texans TD bow
Arian Foster Texans Batman
Arian Foster Texans Titans run
Arian Foster Texans Titans
Arian Foster Texans Chargers jump
Ben Tate Texans Chargers
Arian Foster Texans Chargers run
Arian Foster Texans Chargers move
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

When the game is truly on the line, when it's make-a-play-or-go-home time, the ball fittingly once again finds Arian Foster's hands. On back-to-back plays, the Houston Texans' fate hinges on Foster making something happens.

And he delivers. That's what true superstars do.

With the Texans trailing an inferior Tennessee Titans team 24-16 with less than two minutes left in regulation, Foster scores eight points on two consecutive plays, bouncing off several defenders like he's Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl in the process. The two-point conversion after his one-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal is a particularly determined brute beauty of a run.

"Arian’s two-point run was just all man," Texans coach Gary Kubiak says. "We didn’t block it very well, and for him to get that ball in the end zone is absolutely incredible."

 Ben Tate is not Arian Foster's equal. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not five years from now. 

Titans defensive tackle Mike Martin meets Foster at the 1-yard-line on the run, but Foster will not be denied. He just pushes Martin into the end zone with him. After having nifty sideswiped a few other would-be tacklers earlier.

"That two-point conversion was all Arian," Texans left tackle Duane Brown says admiringly. "Arian just found a way to get in."

That's what true superstars do. That's why the whole notion of Arian Foster "sharing" the carries with Ben Tate screamed out as pure ridiculousness from the beginning. Foster wears a sleeveless black Batman T-shirt under his home white Texans No. 23 jersey on this Sunday. He doesn't run like a superhero most of the game though.

But he does at the two moments the Texans absolutely need him to in order to survive.

Without Foster's back-to-back gutty scoring none of the craziness that ends up making this 30-24 overtime Texans win so memorable ever happens. The bizarre sequence of Randy Bullock lining up for four straight attempts at a game-winning 46-yard field goal (with only the last miss officially counting thanks to penalties and timeouts) at the end of regulation? Rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins' absolute takeover of the game in overtime?

Neither happens without Foster's fight first.

Even Andre Johnson's incredible catch along the sideline, holding onto the ball and maintaining possession as he hit the ground despite former Texan Bernard Pollard knocking him out of the game with what clearly should have been flagged as an illegal hit to the head, goes for naught if Foster doesn't make sure it converts into all eight points.

"I sure appreciate my man saying that," Foster says of Brown's insistence that No. 23 produced the game-knotting two-point conversion out of nothing. "But it's never all me."

It should be when the Texans need an important run. No matter his good intentions, Kubiak disrespected Foster in San Diego when he didn't sub him in for some critical carries and again in the week leading up to this Titans game when he talked about sharing the carries equally between Foster and Ben Tate. Arian Foster absolutely needs to be on the field for the Texans when it counts most — and after this game, you have to believe Kubiak feels that way too.

The split-carry game turns into 20 touches for Foster (19 carries and one catch) and 12 for Tate (nine carries and three catches). That's no split — and that's the closest you're liable to see their carries in a game the rest of the season. When it absolutely matters, when he needs a two-point conversion to stay alive, the coach still trusts No. 23 most.

"I'm sitting here staring at 19 to 9 (Foster in carries)," Kubiak says. "You all want me to tell you how I wanted it to be more even?

"That was the last thing I was thinking about when we were trying to get back in the game at the end.”

In other words, Kubiak's come to his senses.

Arian Foster's been disrespected enough in his football life. He's crawled out of nowhere — undrafted practice squad man — to become a nearly yearly legit league MVP candidate. It's doubtful that Kubiak's split carries talk motivated Foster. He's been driven from the jump. He trained crazy hard this offseason by all reports.

 "Arian’s two-point run was just all man. We didn’t block it very well, and for him to get that ball in the end zone is absolutely incredible." 

He doesn't need the drama. Just give him the football. Just recognize what you have.

"I’m still rusty out there," Foster says at his locker, the Batman T-shirt replaced by a distinctive navy long-sleeve, button-up shirt. "I missed a couple of plays that I normally make. But that just comes with it.

"You have to knock the rust off and the only way to do that is get in there and bang.”

Kubiak needs to keep feeding Foster, rust or not. It's the only way the Texans get where they want to go.

The Foster Tate Game

Foster takes the first touch of the game and goes 10 yards on a sharp cut up the middle. Tate turns his first carry into a 60-yard burst down a wide-open right edge, punctuating it with stiff arm to Titans linebacker Moise Fokou.

The end result? The Texans go 80 yards in five plays (four of them runs that account for all but one of those 80 yards) to grab a quick 7-0 advantage.

 When it absolutely matters, when he needs a two-point conversion to stay alive, the coach still trusts No. 23 most.  

Foster's featured on eight first half plays (seven rushes and one pass) and Tate also gets eight first half opportunities (five runs and three passes thrown his way). The Texans weren't playing well enough on offense to rack up a lot of plays. They trail the Titans 10-7 at halftime, going scoreless for the last 27:30 of game time.

Still, that's not enough touches for No. 23.

The idea that Arian Foster needs to prove something to Kubiak — or anyone else — is laughable. He's shown everything he needs to show for three-plus seasons. All those yards, all those big prime time performances, the playoff shows that made people like Ray Lewis and Bob Kraft genuflect to his blinding talent . . . No. 23's proved it again and again and again.

Ben Tate is not Arian Foster's equal. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not five years from now.

Few are. Tate could make a Pro Bowl in the right circumstances on another team and he won't be close to an Arian Foster.

We're talking about one of the most unique talents in recent NFL history. You don't take carries from Barry Sanders in his prime. You don't make Adrian Peterson share the football. And you don't decide Ben Tate is suddenly the equal of Arian Foster.

"That has to be OK with me," Foster said earlier this week. "Like I said, we’re chess pieces. Coach makes the final ruling, but as a competitor, I’ve been in this league, I feel like I’ve played well throughout my tenure here. You want to be out there.

"You feel like you’ve earned that right to be out there. That’s just where the frustration comes from.”

Arian Foster is right to be frustrated. He deserves more respect. He's earned it. He took the path never traveled —from undrafted, disregarded free agent to one of the league's singular figures. Before J.J. Watt ever burst onto the scene, Foster gave Texans fans real hope.

On this Sunday, he only makes the play that allows the Texans to win the game. All Man. All No. 1 back. One of the best in the league. This ain't no split carry back.

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