Patriots' defense respects Texans' Arian Foster

New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork walks New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork walks on the field during practice in Foxborough, Mass. (Jan. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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When Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo refers to Texans running back Arian Foster as The Waterboy, he means it as a compliment.

Mayo was asked to describe the running style of his former University of Tennessee teammate, and he came up with a very fluid metaphor as the teams prepare for Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game in Foxboro, Mass.

"He's such a patient runner," Mayo said. "I like to liken his running style to water. He's not that guy who's going to stick real hard. He's just going to be patient until the hole develops, then he makes the whole team better."

The Patriots did a decent job of containing Aquaman in Week 14, damming him up for 46 yards on 15 carries. A lot of that had to do with jumping out to an early lead and forcing the Texans to play catch-up in a 42-14 rout.

"Anytime that you can get a team one-dimensional, that's a big plus," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "It just bottles up a bunch of things when you can get a team like that one-sided; knowing when you can expect the pass, you can expect this and you can expect that."

It may not be as easy this time. In three playoff games -- two last season and one Saturday -- Foster has 425 rushing yards. That's the most by any player in NFL history in his first three playoff games. His average of 141.7 rushing yards per playoff game is second in NFL history, trailing Terrell Davis by half a yard.

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With 140 rushing yards last week against the Bengals, Foster became the first player in NFL history to top 100 in each of his first three playoff games. Only four others ever had 100 rushing yards in three consecutive playoff games: Emmitt Smith (Cowboys), Franco Harris (Steelers), Marcus Allen (Raiders) and Larry Csonka (Dolphins). Hall of Famers all.

"Last week, you saw why this guy is one of the top offensive players in the game -- not just a back, but a top offensive player in the game -- the things that he can do with the ball in his hands in the pass game and running it," Wilfork said. "He's a special player, and we understand that."

"I've always thought highly of Arian as a running back," Mayo said. "Obviously, now you guys get to see what he can do. I went against him every day in one-on-ones [at Tennessee]. I think he's always been a good player."

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