HOUSTON -- Steve Slaton became a key to the Texans' offense as a rookie last season when he ran for a franchise-record 1,282 yards.
This season, Slaton is tied for the NFL lead in lost fumbles with five, and his job as Houston's starting running back is in jeopardy after Ryan Moats had a huge day filling in for him.
Moats, a career backup, ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns after Slaton was benched during the first quarter of the Texans' 31-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Now Texans coach Gary Kubiak won't say who will start in this Sunday's AFC South showdown against the Indianapolis Colts. Along with Slaton and Moats, the Texans have Chris Brown, who's primarily used in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
"They know they're all going to play and they know they're all going to be a part of what we're doing, so I just think we keep working them," Kubiak said. "Obviously, Ryan earned some time on the football field the way he played. But we've got to get all three of them ready to play."
Regardless of who starts, coaches and players agree that they will need Slaton's playmaking ability against the Colts.
Slaton has started slowly this season with 110 carries for 342 yards and two touchdowns, but he has supplemented his work in the running game with 314 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Left tackle Duane Brown talked to Slaton after the victory over the Bills to remind him that everyone is rooting for him and expects him to rebound from this adversity.
"Everyone here has so much belief in Steve and what he can do," Brown said. "It's just about him bouncing back, and this will definitely be a big week to do it. We're going to need everyone to get this win, and he's a very key part of this team and what we have going."
The Texans continue to run drills in practice focusing on trying to make the running backs fumble. On Wednesday, they even had a cornerback run after them after plays were done to try and knock the ball loose.
Slaton wasn't made available to reporters Wednesday, but he talked about his struggles after the game Sunday.
"It's hard," he said. "You always want to go out there and be a part of the team game, but we rode the hot hand, and Moats had a great game and got it done for us."
If Slaton doesn't start against the Colts, it will break a streak of 23 consecutive starts for the third-round draft pick. Moats said who starts doesn't really matter.
"When you were a younger guy in high school and college, starting was a big thing to you," he said. "But in this situation, I don't think it's that important because in this league today no one back can do it all. You have to do it together."
Moats, who's in his second year with the Texans after spending two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, has found himself in the strange position of comforting Slaton while possibly taking his job.
"You can't deny that he's a good back, and you can't deny that he's a great runner and he's going to continue to have great runs in the future," Moats said. "So I think with me playing for a longer time than he has, I try to help him as much as I can. You never want to play out a guy that's going to be an important part of this offense for a long time to come."