LAKE FOREST – Lance Briggs felt as if he were going back in time while he analyzed film of the Houston Texans’ offense this week at Halas Hall.
All of a sudden, Briggs was a teenager again watching Terrell Davis wear down defenses.
“When you look at a lot of the old Denver Broncos, when they were running the ball like crazy, it’s a lot like that,” Briggs said.
Briggs will go back to the future when the Texans (7-1) visit the Bears (7-1) on Sunday night.
No team has run the ball more this season than the Texans, who have 280 rushing attempts for an average of 35 per game. The repeated runs have helped the Texans lead the league in average time of possession (35:13) while keeping opposing offenses off of the field.
All of those run plays have had another effect. They have lured defenses into a trap.
Every now and then, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub will fake a handoff before hiding the ball on his hip. If opposing defenders bite on the run fake, then Schaub is in a perfect spot to launch a play-action pass downfield or roll out of the pocket for a bootleg pass or run.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has seen countless play-action and bootleg plays in 13 seasons on the lakefront. Yet even Urlacher struggled to quickly determine a run from a play-action pass while watching film of the Texans’ first eight games of the regular season.
If Urlacher is concerned about the Texans’ deceptions, you can bet his teammates are, too.
“It’s hard to differentiate from run and pass quick because they look the same for a couple seconds there,” Urlacher said. “Until you see him rolling out, you’re not sure what it is.”
The key to setting up a great play-action is having one of the league’s best running backs.
Once an anonymous practice-squad player, Texans Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster now plays the role that Davis used to serve with the Broncos. Foster has rushed for a touchdown in 10 consecutive games and exceeded 100 rushing yards 20 times in his career.
As Bears defenders fret about Foster on Sunday, Schaub could keep the ball and find targets such as five-time Pro Bowl Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, a 1999 graduate of Libertyville High School. Schaub also could look for tight end Owen Daniels, a 2001 graduate of Naperville Central High School, but Daniels is a game-time decision because of a hip injury.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Foster's success allowed for so many well-disguised passes.
“The biggest thing is if we run the ball well, then I think we’re very effective in those things,” Kubiak said. “If we’re not running the ball effectively, it’s hard to boot, it’s hard to [play-action] pass, those types of things. Everything we do starts with the run.”
Bears bits: Injured wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hand) practiced on a limited basis for the first time in more than a month. However, Jeffery was listed as doubtful to play Sunday. … Defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (calf) also was listed as doubtful. Toeaina has been a healthy scratch for six of the past seven games, so he was unlikely to play anyway. … Defensive end Israel Idonije (ankle) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (back) were listed as probable.