Texans' run defense 'was bend but don't break, and we broke'

HOUSTON -- After allowing 166 rushing yards to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, Houston Texans defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver said the run defense was something that the team needs to “get corrected,” while hoping it would “improve with time and with practice and now getting to play full-speed games.”

Through three quarters in Sunday’s Week 2 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, it looked like Houston had made some progress in that area. And then in the fourth quarter, the Ravens flipped a switch.

In the fourth quarter alone, Baltimore rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown, which was the most fourth-quarter rushing yards allowed by a team since the Jaguars in 2017, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Ravens averaged 6.2 yards per rush before first contact in the fourth quarter after averaging 2.7 during the first three quarters.

“The fourth quarter really hurt us,” nose tackle Brandon Dunn said. “It was a bend but don't break, and we broke.”

The Texans struggled against the Ravens’ four-pronged rushing attack. Running back Gus Edwards led the way with 73 rushing yards on 10 carries -- he has rushed for 185 yards on 18 carries in the Ravens’ last two meetings against Houston -- and running back Mark Ingram added 55 yards on nine carries. Quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for 54 yards on 16 attempts and rookie running back J.K. Dobbins added 48 yards on just two carries.

“Obviously, in the fourth quarter they're running the ball heavy to try and run down the clock as well, and we have to shut that down and we didn't,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “... They're a potent offense and they have a lot of capabilities, so you give them credit as well. They're a very good offense. When you have a quarterback that can run the way he can run, he's going to make plays.

“...But whatever [the problem] is, we got to get it corrected, obviously."

Houston has allowed 396 rushing yards in its first two games of the season, losses to the Chiefs and Ravens. The Texans trail only the Detroit Lions in rushing yards allowed this season.

It’s a trend that continues from last season, when Houston ranked eighth in the regular season in rushing yards allowed per game. In 2019, the Texans gave up 121.1 yards on the ground per game, although they played the majority of the season without Watt.

“It's not very good, obviously,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “We have given up a lot of rushing yardage in the last two weeks and it's just not very good. ... The run defense has to improve.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Texans as they face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3. Steelers running back James Conner ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Teammate Benny Snell Jr. has 118 rushing yards through two games.

“Sometimes we fit the run really well. Sometimes we get out of our gaps,” O’Brien said. “... We’ve got to look at our scheme and look at what we’re doing but this offense that we’re playing this week is completely different than that offense and the offense before that. It’s going to be a matter of what we think is the best thing to do versus Pittsburgh. We just have to -- everybody’s got to do a better job. When you’re 0-2, you have to improve in every area.”