Texans Must Regain Run Defense Confidence Before…..

Texans Must Regain Run Defense Confidence Before Playoff Matchup vs Browns

For the Houston Texans to advance back to the AFC Divisional Round next week, they must contain the Cleveland Browns. The good news? They have a baseline for what went wrong in Week 16’s 36-22 loss on Christmas Eve. The bad news? Cleveland is more than a pass-happy offense headlined by the unlikely duo of Joe Flacco and Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper. Even without All-Pro Nick Chubb pounding the rock, the Browns remain a consistent chain-mover on the ground with their rushing attack. “They’re a really good offensive line, really good run unit,” said Texans coach DeMeco Ryans Monday, “so we have to be prepared to stop the run.”

Entering Saturday, Houston’s run defense served as a stalwart to the turnaround on NRG Drive. After finishing dead last in yards allowed after contact, the Texans ranked third, stopping the run, allowing less than 90 yards per contest.

All that changed at Lucas Oil Stadium and Jonathan Taylor found a crease and took off to the races midway through the third quarter with a 49-yard touchdown run. Taylor, who’s had his way with Houston in years past, became the first running back to rush for over 100 yards (188 yards on 30 carries) against the Texans’ front season this season. Backup running back Zach Moss totaled 30 yards on six carries. As a team, Indianapolis averaged a whopping 6.1 yards per run and totaled 11 of its 21 first downs by player’s legs.

Texans HC DeMeco Ryans: 23 injured players 'doesn't stop our process' for  preparing for Bengals

“Our tackling was not good versus the Colts, and it showed up,” said Ryans. “I’m not concerned about what happened there in the running game, I just know we can play better overall when it comes to how we play our technique upfront, starting with the defensive line.

“We just have to be better of swarming the football, but it starts with tackling. It wasn’t good enough and we have to improve it this week.” Cleveland won’t possess the same ability to create yards after contact, but it’s efficient in moving the sticks. Kareem Hunt picked up 39 first downs off 135 carries. Jerome Ford totaled 33 on 204 attempts. With Chubb’s departure, the Browns relied heavily on their passing attack with four different passers. In Week 16, it was the Cooper show at NRG, who broke the franchise’s single-game receiving record with 265 yards and two touchdowns.

On the ground, Ford finished with 25 yards on 15 carries. Hunt totaled 11 yards on seven attempts while Pierre Strong recorded 22 yards with five handoffs. But big plays to Cooper set up red-zone scores from the run game. Ford scored on a 4-yard run to open the game after Cooper pushed Cleveland into the red zone on a 53-yard catch to open the game. Hunt scored on a 1-yard pickup to kick off the fourth quarter. How’d he get the field position? Cooper caught two balls for a gain of 32 yards.

“Watching it again, he had some of the best catches I’ve seen all year, even though guys were in coverage and in position, he still made unbelievable catches,” Ryans said of Cooper. “He had an outstanding game, so we just have to be in a position to cover him better. We have to make plays to get off the field on third-down as well.” Stopping Cooper might not secure a win, but it could eliminate the opportunities for red-zone scoring for the run game. Outside of the Pro Bowl pass-catcher, Flacco completed 17 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions.

Texans HC DeMeco Ryans: 23 injured players 'doesn't stop our process' for  preparing for Bengals

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