Texans need consistent running game to spark struggling offense

Lamar Miller ran for 60 yards on 11 carries Sunday against the Rams. Harry How/Getty Images

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans got off to a good start on the ground with 78 yards on 17 carries in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The second half was a different story for the Texans’ ground game, and their offense in general. Houston ran for 11 yards on eight carries after halftime.

The Texans have the NFL’s sixth-best rushing offense and have averaged 127.9 yards per game this season, but the majority of that came with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson under center. Watson contributed to the success with 269 yards on 36 carries in seven games, and his mobility also opened up the Texans’ passing game, giving them a balanced and effective attack that turned into one of the league’s best offenses.

If the Texans want to have more success on offense going forward, they need to run the ball like they did in the first half against the Rams. Of course, it is easier to establish the running game when not trailing by two possessions, which is where the Texans found themselves for a lot of the second half.

“We have to finish drives,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “I think we just have to be more consistent in running the football. I just think consistency is really the key theme.”

The Texans have a good one-two punch with Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman. O’Brien likes to primarily use the “big, powerful” rookie Foreman on first and second down because he’s still learning pass protection at the professional level and the Texans’ blocking schemes. O’Brien said Foreman has improved a lot and is “getting a better grasp of how to run in the NFL, downhill, not bounce everything.” Miller has also been effective in the passing game.

Miller ran for 60 yards on 11 carries and Foreman added 18 yards on seven attempts against the Rams.

“Lamar ran well [on Sunday],” O’Brien said. “I started D’Onta and he pounded it in there a couple times, got a nice third-and-1 for us. Lamar went in there and did a nice job. I got to figure out what to do on my end of things to keep that running game going.

“[In the second half] I came out and I ran a weakside lead, and [Rams defensive tackle] Aaron Donald blew us up in the backfield and that wasn’t a real good start to the running game. I don’t know. That’s what I’m kind of saying about me. I think I just have to figure out how to do a better job in those situations and try to call some better plays.”

The Texans won’t have an easy time against the run on Sunday, as the Arizona Cardinals have the eighth-ranked rushing defense, allowing just 97.7 yards per game.