Houston Texans at Chicago Bears preview: Can Arian Foster continue his supreme form?

Arian Foster

This heavyweight inter-conference matchup will be decided by how well Arian Foster fares against Chicago's swarming defense.

Foster is the key to Houston's run-first offense. A talented running back, Foster thrives in head coach Gary Kubiak's zone-rushing scheme.

He currently ranks fourth in the NFL with 770 yards at a 4.0 average. But can Foster produce against one of the league's toughest defenses?

Actually his task may be easier than it first appears.

The Bears defense is schematically-vulnerable against the run. That's because Chicago still relies on a 2-deep safety system known as "Tampa-2."

This involves both safeties aligned 15 yards or more off the line of scrimmage, covering both deep zones. Good running games can often exploit this look, because the Bears are left to rely only on their front seven to stop a ground attack.

With the Bears often declining to bring an eighth man up to the line, the Texans should be able to spring Foster for some long gains. That will help set up the play-action passing game that enables quarterback Matt Schaub to flourish.

The Bears had trouble stopping the run last week. They allowed Tennessee Titans runner Chris Johnson to rush for 141 yards on 16 carries.

If they hope to counter Foster, quickly penetrating the line of scrimmage will be key. Defensive linemen Henry Melton and Julius Peppers will be the central figures.

Melton is a natural playmaking defensive tackle. His off the snap speed is breathtaking and he will have to disrupt many of Houston's zone runs at the source.

Peppers should cause his usual brand of havoc on the edges. But the Bears might be best served sliding him inside during this game.

The 32-year-old has lost none of his first-step quickness. Using that takeoff and his 6'7" frame to split gaps along the interior, could lead to negative plays for Foster.

Another ploy the Bears like to use to stuff a rushing attack, is the use of run blitzes. Star linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are allowed to creep up to the line and quickly blitz open holes.

Foster could struggle to escape the attentions of these stellar veterans in the backfield.

The Texans win or lose based on the success of their ground game. Foster against the Bears marauding defensive front promises to be a fascinating watch.

If Foster can find gaps in the Bears schemes, Houston can spring the upset. If the Monsters of the Midway gain the upper hand, expect Chicago to dominate.

image: © ajguel