End Zone Party
Show Ben Tate the end zone and he'll find a way to get in.
At least on this weird Sunday. For with the hopeless, hapless, run allergic Houston Texans facing the New England Patriots, the Texans' No. 2 running back turned starter seized the moment. Two in the first half to be precise. And another in the fourth quarter.
Twice with the Texans in Patriots territory early, Tate took the ball and produced a touchdown with little sign there was on there. He weaved in from eight yards out to give the Texans a 7-0 lead and then pulled off several cuts on a 20-yard run to push the advantage to 17-7. With the end zone anywhere near, Ben Tate's busted ribs no longer seemed so crippling.
Houston had two rushing touchdowns in 11 games. Tate equaled that by halftime.
Yes, the Texans were scoring on the ground.
Coming into the afternoon, Houston had two rushing touchdowns in 11 games. Two. Tate equaled that by halftime. He averaged 14 yards on two touchdown carries and 3.3 yards on 10 other first half carries.
Is that end zone drive?
Tate added a third touchdown early in the fourth quarter. By then, he was rolling whenever he touched the football.
For the first time this season since all-everything tailback Arian Foster hobbled off against Kansas City, never to be seen again this season, the Texans could say they had a legitimate running game.
The Texans started their first drive on their own 44-yard line — thanks to a 50-yard Keshawn Martin kickoff return. They began their second on their own 48 — thanks to the defense forcing a three and out.
This time, they'd do something with it. Case Keenum hit Andre Johnson for 29 yards and 13 yards on back-to-back plays. Tate then reminded the Texans of what a rushing touchdown looks like, darting in from the 8-yard line.
The field position bonanza continued when Johnathan Joseph picked off Brady on a third-and-three play, returning it to the Patriots 31-yard line. That set up a 43-yard Randy Bullock field goal. Suddenly, the Texans led 10-0.
The Patriots outscored the Texans 83-42 in two games last season — back when the Texans were actually good — with Brady tossing seven touchdown passes.
The Texans dubbed this game "Homecoming" and trotted out Robert Horry (Rockets), Larry Dierker (Astros), Brian Ching (Dynamo) and . . . . Chester Pitts (Texans)? . . . to represent the city's four major pro sports teams. Someone needs to tell them you don't schedule Tom Brady for Homecoming though.
Then again, maybe Tate felt like he was back in college too. The former Auburn standout certainly had plenty of War Eagle inspiration from Saturday.
He ran with purpose — and decisive cuts. Especially when the end zone was near.