With Ahman Green hobbled, rookie Steve Slaton looks to carry the bulk of the load against the best rushing defense in the NFL Sunday when the Houston Texans host the Baltimore Ravens in the Ike Bowl. The Ravens are allowing just 64.2 yards rushing per game, fewest of any team in the NFL.
“You just have to take what they give you,” Slaton said. “They don’t really give up to much, but you have to keep pressing and rely on the run game."
Slaton knows, of course, that the main man in Ravens' defense is Ray Lewis. “He’s a man. He’s definitely a man, I think. He’s a leader of their defense and he has been for so long. He’s going to be one of the guys I’m going to have to look out for.”
Slaton also stressed that the Texans have to protect the football. “It shows in all our losses. Whenever we turn the ball over it’s not in our favor. So, we just have to keep the ball under control.”
The Ravens extended some high praise to Slaton as well.
“He’s a homerun threat,” Ravens' Head Coach John Harbough said of Slaton. “Every time he touches the ball, you worry about taking it the distances. Whether it’s one of those zone runs they run where he’s a one-cut guy and he hits it, or it’s a screen or a swing pass out of the backfield. He’s kind of the total package and he’s scary.”
Harbough also offered praise to Texans' backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels. “We think Sage Rosenfels is a starting quarterback in the NFL,” Harbaugh said. “He’s proven that. We think people in Houston feel that way. We think people all around the league feel that way. So, we don’t think there’s any drop-off at all.”
Rosenfels will start for injured starter Matt Schaub. But Texans' center Chris Myers doesn't really view Sage as a backup either. “You consider him a starter that comes in behind another starter. We look at it as if we have two starters on our team. We’re pretty lucky for that. Not many team can say that, that they have two great starting quarterbacks to be able to get the win anytime.”
Still, Rosenfels knows he is the backup and feels he has something to prove. “I've been a backup for eight years,” Rosenfels said. “So if there are 32 teams, for eight years that's 256 times that teams have said, ‘This guy's not our starter.' I think there’s some (naysayers) out there.”
“I feel I've played pretty well 95 percent of the time this year and in that (Colts) game and last week. But a winning quarterback plays good for the entire game and that's what I have to do this week," Rosenfels said.
Controversy surrounds the play that Schaub was injured on. “Well, I think it was (a chep play). The ball was already gone and a player went for my leg, which isn’t what they are supposed to be doing. So, that’s all I can say.”
Jared Allen, the Viking whose hit injured Schaub, apologized after the game.
“It’s hard to tell what a guys intentions are. Playing against him the whole game, I can’t that I think it was intentional. When you going after a guy, you can’t really help where you fall at, but then again, you never know. Some guys want to get that guy out of the game just to make it that much harder for us. So, I don’t think he meant to do it on purpose though,” Texans' left tackle Duane Brown said.
Starting strongside linebacker Zac Diles, who leads the Texans with 66 tackles this year, broke his left tibia in practice yesterday.
"He'll be gone for the year," Texans' head coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's going to have to have a rod inserted. They're going to try to get that done tonight. We lost a kid that was becoming a great player. It's difficult on the football team to watch that today. We just wish him the best."
"He was having a tremendous year. He was playing great for us, and we’re losing a good player. We’re going to have to have someone step up and fill his shoes," Texans' linebacker DeMeco Ryans said.
“We were just in a drill working on; I think we were either on punt or punt return. Actually it was a half speed drill. Somehow he claims he kicked himself. I’ll have to go back and look at it. I haven’t seen the film yet. But, just a freak accident, but we all heard it. It was obvious that something bad had happened when he hit the ground,” Kubiak said.