Playing in his first game as a Houston Texan, Lamar Miller carried the ball 28 times, a personal high in his five years in the NFL. He carried it 22 times versus the Jets as a second year back in Miami in 2013 and then 20 times last year versus the Ravens. Those were the only times he carried it 20 times or more in a game.
Until last Sunday.
Coach Bill O'Brien mentioned that Miller was going to carry the rock a bunch and Sunday fit right into that plan. Other than carrying the ball 28 times, Miller's arrival changed the effectiveness of the run game and that could be seen on an 11-yard run in the first half of Sunday's win over the Bears.
There were a couple of things that stood out to me watching this inside zone run where Miller helped turn good scheme and solid push up front into 11 yards, when other backs may have been stopped for a loss or no gain. Let me explain.
The Texans had 12 personnel on the field, with Miller in the backfield and two tight ends - Stephen Anderson and Ryan Griffin - in the game.
The first thing you'll notice is that it was a bit of a numbers game at this point. The Texans have seven blockers up front with only six Bears in the box. That's an excellent opportunity to run the ball and the Texans did just that.
Just prior to the snap, Griffin went in motion from his H-back position and aligned as a fullback in the backfield. His eyes were more than likely on linebacker Danny Trevathan. The Bears linebacker was the key on this play and with his speed, he could've been an issue.
As the ball was snapped, the blocks came together well, especially so from center Greg Mancz through the right side with Jeff Allen and Derek Newton. A lane developed for Miller in the A gaps and he headed straight for it.
But, look again at that picture. Trevathan appeared to have a bead on Miller after running through the B gap reading run. From a technique standpoint, Trevathan took a risk running through, behind the play, but he's one of the fastest linebackers in the league, so it's a calculated one. Unfortunately for the Bears, he never got to Miller. Take a look at the next sequence and you'll notice Miller up into the hole and Trevathan not even close.
That's the first difference Miller makes for the Texans. His burst and speed will keep linebackers from making the decision to run through an open hole on the backside of a play. Other running backs in that position may not have gotten to the line of scrimmage quickly enough to make Trevathan pay for that decision. In other words, this 11-yard gain could've been a tackle for a loss for other backs. Say it's a tackle for no gain - 11 yards versus zero yards. That's a difference in keeping the sticks moving or setting up for second or third and long.
Miller got to the hole faster than Trevathan could close in the backfield. Essentially, Trevathan blocked himself and Miller was up into the hole with some room to run.
At this point, Miller was into the open with some room to run with the Bears secondary closing fast. Here's the second difference I mentioned. Once Miller got through the line, he bent the run, just a bit, to the left and appeared headed for the Texans sideline on his left. He then noticed Bears cornerback Tracy Porter closing fast. So, he planted off his outside foot and burst back to the middle of the field and cut behind the block of Anderson for the 11 yard gain.
The runners that could've gotten through to the second level may not be able to make that nearly 45 degree cut back to the middle to pick up more yards. The difference in an eight yard run and an 11-yard gain doesn't seem much, but think about it over the course of a game or a season. It matters. A lot.
Miller is a different back than any the Texans have had since their inception in 2002 and that was evident in this first down run last Sunday.
Check out a collection of the best shots from RB Lamar Miller's football career.