Arian Foster was on his way to having one of his typical big games against the Baltimore Ravens. And then, he wasn't.
Foster looked like vintage Foster (which isn't exactly a dated, ancient thing) as the Texans marched up and down the field on the defending Super Bowl champs in the first quarter. He stood on pace for 172 yards after 15 minutes.
Unsustainable? Perhaps. But when DeMarco Murray can rip off 175 yards for the Dallas Cowboys anything is possible.
At the least, with that kind of start you expect one of the best running backs in football to finish a lot closer to that type of giant number than 54. That's how many yards the Texans offensive lifeline ended up with at the end of the Baltimore Ravens' commanding 30-9 victory.
Foster only received 12 carries against the Ravens — four after the first quarter. Four.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Trent Richardson-trading Browns are already focusing on signing Texans backup tailback and free agent to be Ben Tate in the offseason. That's more good for Tate than alarming, who'd be wise to use this season to accept the media attention that will come with him being someone's No. 1.
The Texans' concern isn't Tate, who knows he needs to be a good solider and make the most of his carries for at least 13 more games to get that big payday.
What everyone involved in Houston's organization should be fretting over is the fact that Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub still don't seem to be quite sure how to best use one of the most lethal offensive weapons in the NFL.
"We did not play well," Foster said in Baltimore. "We did not play well at all. I felt like we ran the ball OK, but we didn't put ourselves in situations where we could run it."
Foster always brings it against the better, more physical teams. Give No. 23 his carries and he'll get the yards. He only received 12 of them against the Ravens — four after the first quarter. Four.
Please don't note how the Ravens went up 24-9 after the first possession of the third quarter. That's a two-score game with enough time left in it to hold an Emmy telecast.
The truth is Kubiak and Schaub have both become much too Andre Johnson dependent. Notice how DeAndre Hopkins (four of his six catches after halftime) and Keshawn Martin (both of his after intermission) didn't start getting the ball thrown to them until No. 80 left the game, removing an increasingly double-edged security blanket.
No one's suggesting the Texans stop trying to get the ball to Andre Johnson. But even the Detroit Lions of Matthew Stafford are starting to learn not to force feed Calvin Johnson every play.
Andre Johnson is the greatest Texan of all time — and he's earned plenty of chances. How dominant he remains at age 32 is one of the great feats in the modern NFL.
But he can't be the only focus. Sometimes you need to force feed Arian Foster the football too.
Hurry Up, Offense
Kubiak noted how two missed third-down plays in Baltimore — plays that could have made a 6-0 lead much more — went for Andre Johnson.
This came when Foster was running well, making the Ravens defenders think they had another tough day in front of them.
Whether it's by picking up the pace — something that paid huge dividends for the Texans in Weeks 1 and 2 — or changing the calls, Foster needs to be given more chances.
"We were slow in and out of the huddle," Kubiak said of the Duane Brown-less offense. "That kind of bothered us.
"We struggled getting some calls in and the communications system went down for a period of time. We’ve got to work through that. But just the tempo in what we’re doing."
Even the Detroit Lions of Matthew Stafford are starting to learn not to force feed Calvin Johnson every play.
With the 3-0 Seattle Seahawks and what's looking more and more like the most fearsome defense in the NFL coming into Reliant Stadium Sunday, not to mention a trip to face a fighting-mad San Francisco team in a national TV showcase the following week, the urgency certainly should be there for Kubiak's offense.
If things go wrong, the Texans could have virtually played themselves out of the running for the No. 1 seed in the AFC by Week 6.
Foster can help run them back into this thing. If he's given half a chance.
He got a quarter of one in Baltimore. Keeping Foster fresh for the end of the regular season and the playoffs is an intelligent, long-range goal (even if all those carries never seemed to bother him the last two postseasons).
But this is getting ridiculous.
Ben Tate could be Cleveland bound by March. But that's still not the Texans' real running back issue.