EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Arian Foster tested his tender hamstring in the pregame gloom enveloping the New York Giants' stadium, but the tendon can carry the Houston Texans' offense no more.
And as soon as Foster declared himself out, the pressure shifted to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Uncle Fitz goes from lovable caretaker of a Foster-powered offense to the man charged with keeping the Texans' winning ways going.
Oh, rookie Alfred Blue moves up to slide into Foster's huge starting shoes and Jonathan Grimes figures to get plenty of carries too, but don't be fooled. This is Fitzpatrick's burden.
Uncle Fitz goes from lovable caretaker of a Foster-powered offense to the man charged with keeping the Texans' winning ways going. The Texans completely fell apart once Foster went out last season. Now, Fitzpatrick must prove he's capable of making sure it doesn't happen again. The idea of Fitzpatrick only throwing 19 passes in a game again disappeared as soon as No. 23 retreated to the locker room, still in warmup sweats.
As Texans general manager Rick Smith watched Foster's unsuccessful warmup attempts, everything changed for the Texans on this September afternoon.
First-year Texans coach Bill O'Brien's new offense has been creative, but largely rooted in the powers of Arian, through two games. Foster touched the football 59 times in those two wins. Fitzpatrick threw it 41 times. Total.
Expecting Blue and Grimes to approximate Foster's production is like expecting you'll be able to find a "buyer" for the Brooklyn Bridge in 2014.
The Giants will force Fitzpatrick to show that he can get the ball downfield to Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. The ultimate game-changing safety net is stuck on the sidelines.
Foster's injury — something he apparently suffered late in that win over the Oakland Raiders last week, which brought about all those Blue carries in the fourth quarter — shakes the foundation of O'Brien's offense. O'Brien knows he needs 350-plus touches from Foster this season to drive the Texans to an unexpected playoff berth.
Now, only three weeks into the season, O'Brien's already had to craft one gameplan without his ultimate chess piece. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the man most deeply affected though.
Welcome to New Jersey! Burden's on you.