It Doesn't Get Any Easier for Texans

The ground game was non-existent for the Houston Texans, and it won't get any easier as they head to Nashville for a meeting with the AFC rival Tennessee Titans.

Since the beginning of preseason, Texans coach Gary Kubiak has been exasperated with his running game. Last season, the Texans averaged 115.4 yards a game. Running back Steve Slaton ran for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards a carry. Now the Texans' running game is almost non-existent.

Kubiak went into training camp and preseason insisting the Texans run at least 50 percent of the time. In preseason, they averaged 3.2 yards a carry, including 2.9 by Slaton.

Wait until regular season, and the lights will come on for the running game, they claimed. Not yet, at least not based on the opening 24-6 loss to the Jets. The Texans had 13 carries for 38 yards. After his first six carries, Slaton had 1 yard. He finished with 17 yards on nine carries.

Now here come the Titans. Angry at their overtime loss at Pittsburgh in the opener. Vowing revenge for losing 13-12 at Houston in December. The one thing the Titans do well is stop the run. Just ask the Steelers.

What the Texans are going to need in Nashville is a performance from Slaton similar to the two he had against Tennessee last season. He reached triple digits two times against a defense that allowed 93.9 a game. They split the AFC South series, with each team winning on its field. Slaton carried 18 times for 116 yards in Nashville and 24 times for 100 yards in Houston.

Nobody ran on the Titans last season like the Texans. That's one reason Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher and first-year defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil have spent a lot of time trying to come up with a better plan to contain Slaton.

Slaton weighed 204 pounds last season. He reported at 215 after living in the weight room, but at 215 he doesn't seem as quick. It would help, of course, if the offensive line could provide a sliver of daylight.

UNDER THE RADAR:
FS John Busing spent his first three seasons playing special teams at Cincinnati before the Bengals waived him. The Texans signed him, and from the moment he stepped on the field for the offseason program the coaches have praised his hitting and his knack for being around the ball. He had an interception and a fumble recovery in preseason and won the backup job over Brandon Harrison, a former fifth-round pick. He came off the bench in the opening loss to the Jets and intercepted Mark Sanchez. Busing fumbled, and safety Dominique Barber picked it up and returned it 48 yards for the Texans' only touchdown. Busing has never started a game. If he keeps making big plays, it's only a matter of time.

BY THE NUMBERS:
1 - Victories the Texans have over the Titans in the team's last eight meetings. That was a 13-12 win last December. The Texans have won only one game at Tennessee, and that was in 2004. The Texans have lost in Nashville by an average of 10.7 points over the last seven seasons.

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