HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans' offense has found its identity this season by relying on the running game because of the passing game's inconsistency, but it has had difficulty lately without starter Lamar Miller in the lineup.
Miller ran for 1,073 yards on 268 carries and five touchdowns in 14 games this season but missed the last two games while dealing with an ankle injury. The Texans ranked No. 8 in rushing yards per game this season and registered at least 100 yards on the ground for nine straight games from Weeks 6-15.
Miller said he is excited to be back for Saturday's wild-card game against the Oakland Raiders and feels "fresh" after having two weeks to rest.
"Right now, I feel good," Miller said. "I feel like it's Week 1. I've been doing a lot of treatment, getting massages, doing the little things to prepare myself for this upcoming week.
"The workload was new to me, but I think overall I did a great job at just taking care of my body. It was just the little things that got to me, but I feel good right now."
Miller said it was tough to miss the last two games of the regular season; they were the first two he had missed since his rookie year in 2012.
"When the coaches told me that I'd be resting, it was tough at first," Miller said. "But they were telling me to look at the bigger picture, just be ready for the playoffs, so I just took that mindset and just tried to be prepared when the playoffs come."
One of Miller's four 100-yard games came in Week 11 against the Raiders in Mexico City. Miller ran for 104 yards on 24 carries in Houston's 27-20 loss.
"The key was the offensive line," Miller said. "They did a great job. Without those guys, we wouldn't be able to run the ball. I know from my standpoint, I was just trying to be decisive to get positive yards, keep the down-and-distance short so we could convert on third downs, and I think that's going to be the key this upcoming week."
Head coach Bill O'Brien said while the Texans had success against the Raiders' run defense earlier in the year, they have been a difficult team to run the football against, especially lately.
"They've done a good job of stopping the run," O'Brien said. "So we're going to have to find a way, we're going to have to find a way to stay as balanced as we can.
"The running game is very important in the playoffs. It's important in January, late in the season. It's important to be able to run the football to be in manageable third downs [and] to control the tempo of the game."
Without Miller on the field, the Texans' running backs combined for 95 yards in their victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16 and 46 yards in Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans. Running back Alfred Blue, who started in place of Miller, finished Sunday's game with 28 yards on 11 carries.
Offensive coordinator George Godsey said he was looking forward to having his starter back.
"He's been a key to our offense, as far as running the ball first. I think that's kind of the mode that we want," Godsey said. "Lamar's got the experience and ability to make a play once he gets to that second level. So it will be good to have him back this week."