Houston offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is thankful every day to be working for the Texans.
He's in charge of a unit that has both the AFC's leading receiver and leading rusher in Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. Johnson has 1,360 yards receiving, Foster 1,313 yards rushing.
"It makes the defense defend a lot," Dennison said. "They put an extra guy down in the box to stop the run, we think we have the people to throw it well and a quarterback that distributes it well. They play back, we think we can do enough offensively running the ball ... that we can find some holes."
Foster and Johnson give the Texans a balanced attack they believe will be critical as they move closer to the playoffs. A win on Sunday against the Vikings will give the AFC South champion Texans (12-2) both a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Johnson has bounced back from an injury-plagued season where he had a career-low 492 yards receiving. He believes Houston's success in the passing game comes as a byproduct of its dominant running game.
"When (coach Gary Kubiak) brought in this style of offense, whenever the run game is going, it just opens up everything else," Johnson said. "I think that's the biggest thing for us is just getting our run game going. When we do that, we tend to win a lot of games."
Kubiak doesn't like it when he has to rely too much on one dimension of his offense. He loved the way the Texans played in Sunday's win over the Colts when they had 178 yards rushing and 239 yards passing.
"We want to be balanced," Kubiak said. "When we're doing those type of things, we're usually staying on the field and helping our defense."
While Johnson credited the running game led by Johnson for the success of the passing game, Foster said Johnson has helped make things easier for him. He said having Johnson healthy has allowed them to use play-action with much more success.
"Dre has been hurt the last couple years so we kind of missed that," Foster said. "But you see exactly how dangerous he could be when he's healthy ... he's going to continue to put up big performances for us because that's what he does."
Houston's running game ranks fifth in the league and is averaging 141.9 yards. The passing game piles up an average of 244.8 yards to give the Texans the NFL's sixth-most potent offense.
Left tackle Duane Brown has enjoyed watching what the pair has been able to do this season, and says when they're both playing this well it makes things difficult for defenses.
"Teams are puzzled," Brown said. "They don't know who to stop, if they want to put eight in the box (or) if they want to double-team Dre. It's so much that you have to focus on. It opens up things for them as well as for our other weapons on offense."
Johnson has played with a chip on his shoulder this season after critics questioned whether the 31-year-old could still be a dominant receiver after his tough season in 2011.
"I think a lot of people wrote me off," Johnson said. "I'm not going to say any names. I think a lot of people just wrote me off with saying that I had lost a step and this and that. But I knew what I needed to do to get myself back to feeling the way I'm feeling now."
His 1,360 yards receiving are already the third-most in his career and his 14 receptions for 273 yards on Nov. 18 against Jacksonville were both career highs. With just seven receptions he'll become the fifth receiver in NFL history to reach 100 catches in four seasons.
With 140 yards receiving he would become the third player in league history to have at least three seasons with 1,500 yards receiving, joining Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison.
Quarterback Matt Schaub isn't surprised that Johnson is having such a productive season as a 10-year veteran — but he is impressed.
"He just continues to go out there and produce," Schaub said. "When we need a big game from him he always seems to be there to do it. It doesn't surprise me. It's great to know that I can be a part of it."
NOTES: Kubiak said LB Brooks Reed, who has missed the last three games with a groin injury, looked good in practice Thursday and should play on Sunday. ... Houston released RB Jonathan Grimes on Thursday.
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