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Slaton puts on a show

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Rookie running back Steve Slaton had the Jacksonville Jaguars' defense on its heels all night.

Coach Gary Kubiak felt a tug on his shirt at halftime of Monday night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was rookie running back Steve Slaton with a strong suggestion: Give me the ball.


Kubiak listened to the voice of youth and the result for Slaton was 130 yards rushing on 21 carries, second half touchdown runs of seven and 40 yards and a 46-yard screen pass that set up a field goal in a 30-17 victory.


"I didn't run the ball enough in the first half," Kubiak said. "We got out of whack a little, I did, play-call wise. The rookie came up to me at halftime. Here's a rookie, grabs me by the shirt and says, 'I'm OK, give me the ball.' Watching him get stronger at the end of the game was very impressive."


The Texans were concerned with their running back health going into the game. Ahman Green had been placed on injured reserve and Slaton's backup was recently signed Ryan Moats. Slaton has been nursing a chest injury.


It didn't show, especially in the second half.

"We wanted to come out and finish the season strong and we came out and played well," Slaton said. "I wanted to run the ball and leave no regrets. After we fixed our game plan for the second half and we were in there and I just told him (Kubiak) I wanted to run the ball. If he needed someone to count on, it was me."


{QUOTE}Slaton gave the Texans a first down at the Jaguars' one-yard line in the third quarter when he hauled in a screen pass from Sage Rosenfels for a 46-yard gain.


"He's been beat up recently and he's been fighting through it," Rosenfels said. "We're not really deep right now at running back. You don't want to put the whole load on the kid, but when the kid is running for six yards a play, you've got to keep feeding the kid."


Rosenfels threw two passes to Slaton. His 46-yard play set up a Kris Brown field goal for a 16-3 lead.


"Everybody was going to the left and I just ran to the right away from everybody and got caught down at the one,'' Slaton said. "It gives the defense a little momentum when they stop you. But we still had a lot of game left and we finished it later on in the red zone."


Slaton made his offensive line happy.

"He had a pretty good game, didn't he?" guard Chester Pitts said. "He just ran tough. He didn't get as many touches in the first half that he wanted, so he told Kub, 'Hey, I'm healthy, give me the ball.' We did. He's deceptively powerful. He finds a way to make us look good.

"You don't have to hold your block so long because he's a good running back. It makes your job easier and who doesn't want their job to be easier? We'll take it."

With Slaton showing the way, the Texans made it look easier in the second half. Slaton added touchdown runs of seven and 40 yards late in the fourth quarter to seal the Texans' second consecutive victory.


Slaton scored both touchdowns within a two-minute span, too quick for defensive end Mario Williams.


"I was wishing he hadn't scored that second one so fast, I needed a little rest," Williams joked.


Rosenfels liked Slaton's spunk for wanting the ball in the second half.

"The first half we threw the ball 19 times and the offensive line was lobbying big time at the half to run the ball more," Rosenfels said. "We did exactly that. We ran the ball against a very tough team to run the ball against. Steve is special. He just needs a little crease to get into the open field."


Slaton remembers his early critique as a third down back.


"Yes, it is driving me here today to be a 10-drive guy,'' he said. "I thought that any situations they put me in, I can play. I just want to prove to everybody that I can do that."


Veteran Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor saw enough of Slaton to be impressed.


"He's a blazer," Taylor said. "I didn't know he was that fast, but he turned the corner on us a couple of times. I saw what he did in Indy a couple of weeks ago. I thought he was just cruising, but tonight he had some after burners. He's a good guy, a lot of upside."


EDITOR'S NOTE:* *Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.*

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