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Bucs 23, Texans 16: Can Houston Trust The Run?

The Houston Texans best be trusting its rushing attack for the 2021 NFL season

HOUSTON -- An NFL storyline can't be told in one half, but the Houston Texans' passing offense is, based on the scant evidence that's been seen, a nightmare tale. 

Maybe come Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars it'll be something more than Tyrod Taylor dump passes or rookie Davis Mills turnovers.

Maybe Texans fans will thank goodness for the Texans' rushing attack. That should be the bread and butter for coach David Culley's offense.

After all, it was the only consistency found at NRG Stadium on Saturday evening in a 23-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Combined in the closing game of the exhibition season, the Texans rushed for 209 yards on the way to a 2-1 finish. David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram all are expected to be roster locks come roster cuts Tuesday. 

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Need any more proof of why they all should remain? Two of them had more rushing yards than Mills and Taylor had passing before the start of the third quarter. 

Ingram led the way in the first quarter with 44 yards, and averaged 4.0 yards per carry. Johnson, who remained largely quiet this preseason, broke out with a 21-yard run to cap off a 30-yard night on the ground. 

Lindsay finished with an average of 2.8 yards per run. Still, 17 yards against the No. 1 run defense in a new offense? Good enough.

Scottie Phillips once again is proving maybe he belongs. The Texans offense needed life on the open drive of the second quarter. Once again, it was Phillips to provide the spark. 

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On the second play, Phillips burst into the open field and left the Tampa Bay defenders to play catch-up. A quick 34 yards later, the second-year runner had Houston at midfield.

He finished for the third straight game leading the team on the ground with 73 yards and an average of 9.1 yards per play.

Culley and Texans general manager Nick Caserio come from organizations that have perfected the ground game. In both seasons as the Ravens assistant head coach, Culley saw Lamar Jackson, Ingram, JK Dobbins and others succeed as NFL rushers. And since 2016, the Patriots have surpassed 1,800-plus yards four times. 

Houston could have walked away undefeated this preseason, but fell short at the end. Losing the defending Super Bowl champions shouldn't be considered that bad, though. After all, how many teams oppose a seven-time Super Bowl winner named Tom Brady playing in preseason game that doesn't matter, anyway? 

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But Houston needed to find balance and consistency on the offense. They didn't do so in the area of passing. Mills threw two interceptions and Taylor did just enough to look the part of a quarterback who clearly is the best option to start Week 1. 

The rushing attack, however, did its job.

Culley said that after finishing 31st in rushing last season, Houston would be focusing on a more balanced offensive approach with a hopes of running the ball more effectively.

That plan might be over. Instead, trusting the run game might be the one way Houston runs away with any success in 2021.

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