Throwback Sunday? Browns, Texans thrive with run

Ben Tate scored a touchdown against the Bengals last week. 

Michael Conroy/AP

BEREA, Ohio — Throwback Sunday? Or maybe Throw Only When Necessary Sunday?

When the Cleveland Browns host the Houston Texans, expect more straight-ahead running than anything else — or anything fancy. The 6-3 Browns and the 4-5 Texans are two of three NFL teams that have run the ball more than they’ve thrown it on the season.

The Browns lead the league with an average of 33.3 rushing attempts per game and a 50.9 percent run/pass ratio. The Texans are second at 50.5 percent and third in rushing attempts per game at 31.2.

The Texans rank fourth in the NFL with 137 rushing yards per game. Their workhorse back is Arian Foster, who leads the AFC and is second in the NFL with 822 rushing yards.

Foster, who has six games of 100-plus yards, is closing in on his fourth 1,000-yard rushing season. He leads the NFL in touchdowns and total yards per game over the last five seasons.

"Anytime you have a back like Arian, one of the better backs in the league, helps your team and helps your team control the ball," Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. "He’s not just a running back. He does a lot of different things for us."

Foster has also caught 26 passes for 229 yards and a career-high three touchdowns this season.

Foster is battling a groin injury and did not practice on Wednesday for the Texans, who were off last weekend. His primary backup is rookie Alfred Blue, who’s run 68 times for 234 yards on the season.

Run defense has long been an issue for the Browns, who rank 28th in the league against the run this season, giving up an average of 134 yards per game. Getting out to an early lead helped last week at Cincinnati and the Bengals ended up rushing for just 86 yards on 22 attempts.

The return of Phil Taylor from a knee scope last week helped the Browns run defense. Taylor sat out Wednesday’s practice with a knee issue, as did starting safety and the NFL’s interception leader, Tashaun Gipson, who has a concussion. Also out with concussion symptoms were tight end Jordan Cameron and backup safety Johnson Bademosi.

The Browns have been running by committee, but the offense has gone how those runners have gone. The new starter — presumably, anyway — is rookie Terrance West, who ran for 94 yards on a career-high 26 carries last week in his third start and his first since September.

Former Texan Ben Tate started the year as the starter but has slumped since returning from injury. Over his last four games, he has 99 rushing yards on a little less than two yards per carry.

On the season, West has 396 rushing yards and three touchdowns, Tate has 342 and four and Isaiah Crowell has 297 and three.

Roster move: Wednesday the Browns signed to the practice squad D.J. Smith, a third-year linebacker from Appalachian State. He was with the Carolina Panthers, playing in one game and inactive in two more while also spending a week on the Carolina practice squad.

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