“He understands everything we put him in,” said offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. “That’s why he’s on the field all the time. We don’t take him out unless he’s tired, and sometimes that’s very reluctantly. We don’t like to have him out.”
Foster figures that being a three-down back is simply part of the job description.
“I try to be the most complete back I can because your value is higher, not just monetarily but your value as a football player is higher to your coaching staff and your team if you can do all things well,” he said.
For a ball-control offense that needs to move chains and burn clock, Foster is a priceless asset, well worth the reported five-year, $43.5 million deal he signed after last season.
“His ability with the ball in his hands, whether he’s running or catching it,” said quarterback Matt Schaub. “Very rarely does the first person tackle him, and that creates big plays for your offense. You can dump it down if something’s not there downfield and he can turn a 3-yard catch into a 12-15-yard gain. That’s a huge positive for us.”
Jerod Mayo, who played across the line from Foster in practice when they were at Tennessee, knew five years ago that he could do all that. “Obviously, now you guys get to see what he can do,” the Patriots linebacker said.
Nobody has to tell Mayo and his fellow defenders what Job 1 will be on Sunday. “He’s a special player,” said Wilfork, “and we understand that.”
Whenever Foster has run for 100 yards this season — as in eight times — the Texans have won. When he hasn’t — most notably in the December games at New England, against Minnesota (15 yards), and at Indianapolis (96) — Houston usually loses. That’s why outside observers, particularly one Globe columnist, have dismissed the Texans as one-trick ponies who’ll easily be lassoed this weekend.
Foster found Dan Shaughnessy’s comments amusing enough to use them as his Twitter avatar. “A couple of my followers sent me that link,” he said. “They kept sending me the same link so I decided to click on it and it was that article. I thought it was funny because the things he used to describe us, like the tomato cans, are in line or something like that, I thought it was kind of funny.”
Nobody will be laughing if Houston can turn the tables in Foxborough and advance to the conference championship game for the first time. Had the Texans taken care of business, they’d be playing here after a week’s rest. Instead, they had to sweat out a wild-card date with Cincinnati that wasn’t decided until Schaub stuffed the ball in Foster’s belly four times on the final drive before taking a knee.
Bob McNair, the franchise founder and owner, was so exuberant that he said he was tempted to come down and give Foster a kiss. “Don’t get me wrong, Bob’s a good guy,” replied Foster. “I don’t want a kiss from Bob, though. A nice little hug would do.”
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.