UPDATE: The Packers held Arian Foster to 29 yards on 17 carries, a paltry 1.7 yard per carry average. His longest run of the night? A five yarder.
J.J. Watt is the toast of football just 23 games into his NFL career, but another Houston Texans' MVP candidate is finding respect a little harder to come by. Every week seems to bring a new clueless slight directed at Arian Foster.
Before the Monday Night Football matchup with the Jets, a local radio host said that one of the NFL's rushing leaders was "struggling." The result? Another 150-yard plus game in a big-time road environment.
Now, the Green Bay Packers are branding the Texans' offensive lifeline as something of a system back, diminishing his accomplishments even as they claim to be showing respect.
"Foster’s a good back, but they’re also in a good system. They have a good running system there."
"The best in the league?" defensive end Ryan Pickett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel when asked where Foster ranks. "Nah. That's tough. There are a lot of good backs out there. It’s Adrian Peterson. Foster’s a good back, but they’re also in a good system.
"They have a good running system there. So it’s hard to compare him with somebody like AP. where they run powers and stuff.
"(Houston) is zone. He’s good, but I don’t know. He’s not AP."
Nose tackle BJ Raji — who is not playing in Sunday night's game between the Texans and the Packers — agreed with Pickett on Foster being a step below the very best. The result?
Well, the leaders of the Texans offensive line are certain Foster is poised for a run of monster games, regardless of what anyone says about him.
"Arian really started to show a lot of trust for us as an offensive line in (that Jets game)," center Chris Myers tells CultureMap. "He ran like he trusted the blocks were going to be there no matter what. That's a big step for us as a line.
"It means a lot for the running game."
It's often forgotten because of how good he is, but Foster is challenging for the NFL's rushing lead while working behind a revamped offensive line. Myers and left tackle Duane Brown may be outstanding cornerstones, but the mesh with new pieces like Derek Newton is anything but automatic.
The Texans offensive line feels it's coming all together now though. Never mind that when it wasn't automatic, Foster still ranked second in the entire NFL in rushing.
"The Jets game is the first time Arian probably completely trusted the blocks — yeah," Brown says. "But a lot of that is on us as a line. We have to show him that we're going to fight to hold our blocks for those extra seconds that make a difference. It's about us fighting to go above and beyond.
"We've got the best back in football. Give him a chance and he'll get it done."
In truth, the Texans offensive line is more likely to get upset over the Packers dismissive comments than Foster himself. No. 23 tends to look at life a little differently than most NFL stars. But Brown, Myers and company take a lot of pride in blocking for the best tailback in football.