Moats carries Texans to victory

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -Wind was expected to be a factor at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday. It wasn't. Running back Ryan Moats wasn't expected to be a factor. It's a bit of an understatement to say that he was.

The weather at Ralph Wilson Stadium was near-perfect, allowing Houston to pass at will against the Buffalo Bills. But when tight end Owen Daniels was injured early in the first quarter, the Texans turned to their running game.

Moats – who replaced Steve Slaton after Slaton fumbled in the first quarter – answered the call. With a career-high 23 carries, 126 yards and three rushing touchdowns, he carried the Texans to a 31-10 victory at Buffalo.

Before Sunday's game, Moats had only 15 carries for 56 yards on the season and four touchdowns in his five-year NFL career.

"I didn't know too much about him, but I know a lot about him now," Bills cornerback Terrence McGee said. "He had a pretty good day."

It wasn't quite a shock to Moats' teammates.

"Ryan went out and did stuff that we're used to seeing in practice," quarterback Matt Schaub said. "He's a hard worker. He understands what we're trying to get done in the run game, and when he gets his opportunities in practice, he always does the right thing."

All of Moats' previous carries in 2009 had come in Week 4 against Oakland. He was used sparingly in 2008 as Slaton's backup, tallying just 26 carries in nine games.

He was given a featured role on Sunday after Slaton's seventh fumble of the season. Moats seized the opportunity, becoming the Texans' first 100-yard rusher this season and the first player in team history with three touchdowns in one game.

{QUOTE}"Every time I play on the field, I try to give it my heart and give it everything I've got," Moats said. "That's what I'm all about. Whenever I touch the field, I run hard as I can every time."

Moats' performance on Sunday earned him the game ball in the locker room from Texans coach Gary Kubiak.

"I wasn't thinking about that," Moats said when asked what his mindset was before the game. "I was just thinking about, (in) the time that I would get, to try to do the best that I can."

Moats has had a quiet stay in two seasons with the Texans, but his performance on Sunday didn't exactly come out of nowhere. After starring at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas and then at Louisiana Tech, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third round in 2005. Moats averaged 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie and had a 114-yard, two-touchdown game against the New York Giants.

But his workload was cut in half in 2006, and he spent the 2007 season on injured reserve with a broken ankle. Moats was released by the Eagles before the 2008 season. The Arizona Cardinals signed him to their practice squad, then cut him after two weeks before Moats joined the Texans last October.

"That was hard, but those hardships make you who you are," Moats said. "Without those things, I wouldn't be who I am today, so I wouldn't change anything. I think it happened the way it was supposed to."

Moats' hard work and positive attitude were rewarded on Sunday in Buffalo. The 5-8, 208-pound back averaged 5.5 yards per carry and took all but approximately 15 of the Texans' snaps after Slaton fumbled.

Considering that Moats rarely played in the first seven games, Kubiak was impressed with his stamina.

"That really surprised me," Kubiak said. "It just tells you the kid's taking care of his business when he's at practice, paying attention. He knows what's going on."

Kubiak would not say whether Moats will start over Slaton moving forward. He did say of Slaton that he is "expecting him to come right back next week and help."

Moats and Slaton sit next to each other in the Texans' locker room, and they expressed mutual support for one another after the game. Slaton said that he was happy to see Moats "doing his thing." Moats was asked what he said to Slaton after the game in what potentially could have been a very awkward conversation.

"I just tried to encourage him and tell him to believe in his talent," Moats said. "He is a good back, and he's going to be a great back. I told him this is the time when your heart shows. This is the time when you give it all you've got and come back in and do great things."

When it comes to perseverance, Moats would know. His own heart showed plenty against the Bills, when he ran with decisive purpose and consistently broke tackles to gain extra yards.

If he keeps it up or comes remotely close to it, it'll be hard for Kubiak to keep him off the field.

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at *twitter.com/NickScurfield or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at imatexan.com/profiles/Nick_Scurf/*.

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