The Houston Texans run game behind their dominant offensive line is their greatest strength in this years playoffs. The Baltimore Ravens will need to successfully defend against it to ensure victory and advance to play either the Patriots or Broncos. Historically the Ravens are great at defending the run, but statistically there has been some drop-off according to the stat obsessed fans and pundits. So let us put away our calculators and leave the counting to the abacus because when it comes to the playoffs the only stat that matters is the "W."
The Texans run a zone-blocking scheme which our players should be very familiar with. Leach and Pollard have a lot of experience with the Texans version of it and I'm certain that while our D is watching film the both of them are in there helping dissect tendencies and what-not. There is a lot of zone-blocking plays that our defense sees every week in practice and this week outside containment is the take-home point in shutting down Houston.
Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson are very good at setting the edge. Haloti Ngata and Cory Redding are great at getting into the backfield on running plays and Terrence Cody is the mountain in the middle. My biggest concern is linebacker speed, Ray Lewis doesn't have it anymore yet Jameel McClain has shown that he has great athleticism. I expect a lot of help from Bernard Pollard finishing off plays where Arian Foster/Ben Tate attempt to break it outside. I don't expect a lot of help from Ed Reed with the run (not that anybody should) as he is almost certainly going to be helping who ever draws coverage on Andre Johnson. Something that I hope not to see us depend on but will make a contribution to keeping the long run plays from happening is our sure tacklers at corner and nickle. Lardarius Webb tackles like a safety and both Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams have the size and willingness to make tackles on ball carriers. Haruki Nakumura and Tom Zbikowski will also be in the mix, but them along with Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee will see most of their reps in passing situations.
The success of the Houston run game depends on the success of T.J. Yates getting the ball to his receivers consistently enough to keep Pollard from playing in the box. This is where the injury to Owen Daniels may really hurt the Texans. Pain won't be the issue in that hand as there are drugs for that, but will it be reliable enough to catch the ball? We'll see.
When the Ravens successfully contain the run game, Yates will face the sack-happy Raven home defense on 3rd and longs. See the 49ers game on Thanksgiving if you want to see what we can do (the 49ers, like the Texans area team with a strong running game and a stout defense). This for any QB, yet alone a rookie, is cause for nightmares. In those situations, Yates will just have to pick his poison and hope for the best. The player that he should be most worried about is not one that is making plans with a taxidermist to add to his large collection of QB heads mounted on his wall, but the guy shadowing his star receiver.