King Tate: Can Ben Tate Get the Houston Texans over the Hump?

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King Tate: Can Ben Tate Get the Houston Texans over the Hump?
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Week 3, 2009: At Arizona

After trailing 21-0 at the half to the Cardinals, the Texans offense has exploded with 21 points of their own.

Now with under a minute left and down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Texans are lined up at Arizona’s 1-yard line, poised to tie up the game at 28. It’s 4th-and-goal and the Texans are lined up in their goal-line formation with running back Chris Brown in the backfield.

Just two weeks earlier, Brown fumbled the ball inside the 1-yard line yard against Jacksonville, sealing a loss for the Texans. And just two plays earlier, Brown was stonewalled at the line of scrimmage while attempting to score from this same distance.

Both plays are still fresh in the minds of the Texans, but lacking any other power back on the roster, head coach Gary Kubiak is forced to go once again with Brown in this situation.

The game hinges in the balance, and it’s a big one.

The Texans desperately need this win, not just for the sake of their season, but more so for the sake of the franchise.

After putting on a dazzling offensive display in the second half of this game and after spending so long on the brink of success as a franchise, now is the time the Texans can show the NFL that, after years of being on the cusp, they are finally a serious threat in the AFC.

They are one yard away from tying the game against a team that was a play away from winning the Super Bowl the season prior.

The ball snaps and mauling fullback Vonta Leach lunges ahead, looking for a hole in the Cardinals stout defensive line led by Pro Bowler Darnell Docket.

Matt Schaub hands the ball off to Brown, who rushes full speed ahead. He hits the line of scrimmage and is immediately stood up.

The entire offense gathers behind him, desperately trying to push him over the plane of the end zone, and in doing so, push the team into relevance.

But, in a plotline development that is amongst the most cliché in all of football, the Texans fall short. The game, and greater opportunity, is lost. 

   

Friday, April 23, 2010  

“With the 58th pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Houston Texans select Ben Tate, running back, Auburn.”

After finishing the season with a 9-7 record, with six losses occurring by eight points or less, the Texans may have found themselves a powerful running back with the ability to convert short yardage opportunities.

If this coming season plays out similar to last season, having such a back on the roster could propel the Texan to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Prior to the beginning of the 2009 season, many fans may have found selecting a running back as early as the second round to be a waste.

Steve Slaton was coming off of a dazzling rookie season, and it appeared the Texans were set at the position for years to come.

But after Slaton succumbed to injury, causing the Texans to sink to 30th in the league in rushing, it became clear that other options were needed.

With defenses more brutal than ever, it appears that the days of the feature back in the NFL are numbered, as evidenced by the increasing number of teams investing both high draft picks and high salaries on complimentary backs.

Even the Minnesota Vikings expended a second round pick on Stanford running back Toby Gerhart so he could form a 1-2 punch alongside fellow Heisman runner-up Adrian Peterson.

By drafting Tate, the Texans have taken the entirety of the rushing load off of Steve Slaton’s back, or more accurately, his neck. Doing so is a positive step towards ensuring that Slaton will return to the form he showed during his freshman season with the club.

Running backs with 3,000 career rushing yards in the SEC don’t grow on trees. Tate had a distinguished career at Auburn, ranking fifth on the school’s all-time rushing list.

He does an excellent job of protecting the ball, and more vitally, has proven to be very effective in short-yardage situations. Nobody in the league is going to question Tate’s tenacity—he rushed for over 1,300 yards his senior year.

Tate doesn't lack confidence in his abilities either—last November he told the Augusta Chronicle that he was the best back in the state of Alabama, Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram included.

This sentiment is encouraging—if a guy is planning on making his living by running full-speed into 300 pound monsters that want to kill him, it probably doesn’t hurt for that guy to have a little self-confidence.

Because of their size discrepancy, some may be inclined to call Tate and Slaton a “thunder and lightning” combination. But as was shown by Tate throughout his career at Auburn and further proven with his blazing 4.4 40-yard dash time at the combine, the more apt nickname for the duo may be “lightning and bigger lightning.”

More so than any other player drafted by the Texans in this class, Tate gives the team a dimension they desperately lacked. Having a large portion of SEC toughness lined up behind Matt Schaub may just provide the Texans with the punch they so desperately needed at times last season.   

 

Week 1, 2010: Indianapolis

Like so many other games with the Colts in recent years, this matchup comes down to the wire. The Texans, down by three points, have been stopped at the Colts 1-yard line with three seconds remaining in the game. After a timeout is called, instead opting to kick a field goal, the Texans line up in their goal-line formation.

With a victory over the team that was a play away from winning the Super Bowl the season before on the line, the ball is snapped.

Mauling fullback Vonta Leach lunges ahead looking for a hole in the Colts’ stout defensive line led by Pro Bowlers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Matt Schaub turns and hands the ball off to rookie Ben Tate, who rushes full speed ahead.

Will he take the Texans with him?

 

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