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Houston Texans

Texans to use every back in run game


It's one of the more intriguing dramas of the season for the Texans: Who will start at running back Sunday against the Colts, Steve Slaton or Ryan Moats?

If you've been in a coma since the start of the season and just emerged, you'd automatically choose Slaton, who led all rookie running backs last season with 1,282 yards and was the darling of the fantasy football crowd early this season.

However, if you've been a faithful fan during this unpredictable season, you know that Slaton has fumbled five times and was benched early in Sunday's 31-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills. When Slaton fumbled in the first quarter, Moats pounced on the opportunity and rushed 126 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns, franchise and personal records.

That's the rub. Coach Gary Kubiak must decide. Or not.

"I'm going to work them all and make a decision at the end of the week," Kubiak said. "I'll play them all. We need them all to win. They know they are all going to play and be a part of what we're doing. Obviously, Ryan earned some time on the football field the way he played. But we've got to get all three ready to play."

Slaton came into the league last year as a third-round draft choice out of West Virginia. The Texans expected him to work his way into the lineup as a third down back. Instead, he became a starter almost immediately, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and scoring 10 touchdowns.

{QUOTE}After eight games this season, Slaton could be on his way to third down status again. He's yet to crack 100 yards rushing, a feat he accomplished five times last season. He's averaging 3.1 yards per carry and has 342 yards on 110 carries, plus those five fumbles.

Slaton was back working hard on holding onto the ball at Wednesday's practice but with no assurance he'll be in the starting lineup for Sunday's game at Indianapolis.

"It's hard," Slaton said. "You always want to be out there and being a part of the team game, but we rode the hot hand and Moats had a great game and got it done for us."

Slaton spent his time on the bench, trying to help.

"My team needed me for support, so I gave 100 percent supporting," he said. "Ryan has been doing it all year, even last year, you know, coming in and doing his thing."

Moats' big game was his second appearance this season. While Moats was the sideline cheerleader, Slaton has received most of the carries followed by Chris Brown. Moats got 56 yards on 15 carries against Oakland on Oct. 4. That was his big showing, until Sunday.

"It has been a long road," Moats said. "Every time I play on the field, I try to help our team win the game. I told him (Slaton), 'Don't get down, just keep fighting.' You cannot deny him because he's a talented back. I told him just to remember that."

Moats has followed his own advice since he was the Eagles' third-round pick in 2005. He sat out the 2007 season while recovering from an ankle injury. He started the 2008 season on Arizona's practice squad and signed on with the Texans after he was cut by the Cardinals.

Yes, it's been a long road, and Moats hopes this is just the beginning.

"Those hardships make you who you are and without those things I would not be who I am today," Moats said. "I would not change anything. I think that happened the way it was supposed to.

"I just got back on the grind and started working on my talent as a runner and my mental part as a football player. At the time, I was learning when I was in Philly. I was learning behind some good backs and I wouldn't change it for the world. I was able to prepare really well."

Kubiak doesn't expect any of his running backs to carry the load. He wants a full complement ready for Sunday's important divisional game. That includes Slaton holding onto the football.

"We've got Steve with (the ball) high and tight, we've been working on that," Kubiak said. "Obviously, we've got to get higher and tighter. That's part of the job. Steve is working hard. We'll need Steve to win this game."

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 teams.

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