With ribs healing, Ben Tate excels

As a team, each of the past 10 weeks have been an exercise in hoping to bounce back.

For Houston Texans running back Ben Tate, Sunday's game was that two-fold. One week after a seven-carry performance that only yielded one yard, he wanted to bounce back by playing better against the New England Patriots.

Though the Texans as a whole are still searching for their rebound, Tate found his. He notched his first 100-yard game since Nov. 6, 2011. It was also the first time the Texans had gained more than 100 yards rushing overall since Nov. 3. Tate gained 102 yards on 22 carries and rushed for three touchdowns. He became one of three players in Texans history to ever do that in a game, according to ESPN Stats and Info, joining Ryan Moats and Arian Foster.

I asked Tate if there ever came a point in the game when he knew he was primed for big numbers.

"Not really, because every game I feel like it's that point until it hit's zero," Tate said. "There's a chance you still could break a run, something like that you know. In this league all it takes is a 30, 40-yard run and your numbers will go way up. I'm always thinking that till the very end."

Not coincidentally, Sunday's game against the Patriots marked an uptick in the Texans' success on play-action passes as compared to the previous two games. Case Keenum's Total QBR on play-action passing was 79.1, while it was 7.1 last week against the Jaguars and 45.3 against the Oakland Raiders.

In that Nov. 3 game, Keenum's play-action Total QBR was 100 and his play-action passer rating was 149.3.

When Houston lost Foster to a back injury they had a capable replacement in Tate. But Tate's production has been hampered by broken ribs since Oct. 20. He has been hurt ever since and the ribs have been healing despite his play.

"I felt better," he said about Sunday's game. "I felt better physically. My ribs felt better. That makes a big difference. Guys were just fired up ready to go. I think this was a game that we really wanted."

There's a chance Tate hits a decent payday this offseason, though that's difficult for running backs in free agency.

He's shown he can be a starter, and he's especially shown his toughness through injury this season. Tate also injured his ankle on Sunday and only left the game for a few plays.

"I think it was a game I definitely needed," Tate said. "I needed something like that. Struggling the week before and dealing with this rib injury a little bit, it definitely was time."