HOUSTON – Houston's Arian Foster is one of the NFL's top running backs.
Running, however, is only one part of his game that makes him so good.
The Texans raved this week about his blocking and receiving skills, and perhaps most importantly, his knowledge of the game.
"There's nothing he can't do," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. "He catches the ball extremely well. He blocks very well. The little things, as far as seeing somebody, it's almost like a chess move. He knows a couple moves ahead when a guy is coming so he doesn't take a solid shot. One of the best things that you notice about runners is they don't get hit really hard, and Arian does that very well."
Houston has a pair of solid backup running backs, but they rarely go in because Foster is so valuable when he's on the field.
"He understands everything we put him in," Dennison said. "That's why he's on the field all the time."
That fact is not lost on Foster, who aims to be indispensable.
"(I take) a lot of pride," he said of doing many things well. "I try to be the most complete back I can because your value is higher, not just monetarily, but as a football player, is higher to your coaching staff and team if you can do all things well."
Foster finished second in the AFC with 1,424 yards rushing in the regular season. He added a season-high 32 carries for 140 yards in Houston's wild-card win over the Bengals to become the first player in NFL history to run for 100 yards or more in each of his first three career playoff games.
He also added eight receptions for 34 yards on Saturday.
"Whether he's running or catching it, very rarely does the first person tackle him, and that creates big plays for your offense," quarterback Matt Schaub said. "When you can dump it down to your running back if something's not there downfield and he can turn a 3-yard catch into a 12-, 15-yard gain, that's a huge positive for us."
The Texans will need another big game from him on Sunday when they face New England in a divisional playoff game.
If he reaches 100 yards against the Patriots, he'll become just the fourth player in league history to reach the mark in four straight postseason games.
Not bad for a player who went undrafted out of Tennessee in 2009 and was picked up as a free agent by the Texans. Foster was on the practice squad for part of that year, and his first career start came in the last game of that season against the Patriots.
He did well, running 20 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Things didn't go nearly as well in his next shot against New England. He had just 46 yards rushing as Houston had to abandon the run game after getting down early in last month's 42-14 loss.
Foster signed a five-year, $43.5 million contract before this season, and says that he rarely thinks about the inauspicious start to his NFL career anymore.
"Anytime you can achieve an elite level performance in any sport ... I think it's special," Foster said. "Me being undrafted I don't think had anything to do with it. It didn't change my opinion of myself."
The draft snub once motivated him, but it doesn't anymore.
"At one point it was. That training camp and that season it was," he said. "But after that nobody cares that you went undrafted anymore."
Coach Gary Kubiak saw many good qualities in Foster before the Texans picked him up, but he's been really impressed with how he's grown since.
"The thing that helps players really take their game to the next level is when they don't have to work so darn hard on game plans because they know things," Kubiak said. "You can walk in with 40 new runs and 100 new passes and it will take Arian about an hour to sit there and read and study and he can go right out there and it's no problem. His talents take over all the time because he is such a smart player."
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