FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When Patriots LB Jerod Mayo refers to Texans RB Arian Foster as "The Waterboy," he means it as a compliment.
"He's such a patient runner," Mayo said of his teammate at the University of Tennessee whom he faces Sunday. "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 held Foster to 46 yards on 15 carries in a 42-14 win on Dec. 10. A lot of that had to do with jumping out to an early lead and forcing the Texans to play catch-up.
"Any time that you can get a team one-dimensional, that's a big plus," Patriots DT 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 might not be as easy this time. With 140 rushing yards against the Bengals on Saturday, Foster became the first player in NFL history to top 100 in each of his first three playoff games.
Only four others, all in the Hall of Fame, have 100 rushing yards in three consecutive playoff games: Emmitt Smith (Cowboys), Franco Harris (Steelers), Marcus Allen (Raiders) and Larry Csonka (Dolphins).
"I went against him every day in one-on-ones (at Tennessee)," Mayo said. "I think he's always been a good player."
Broncos: RB Willis McGahee, out since sustaining a compression fracture and a torn MCL in his right knee Nov. 18 against the Chargers, practiced for the second straight day. McGahee, who remains in a no-contact jersey, is on injured reserve but is eligible to return for the AFC title game. … The only player eligible to play Saturday who did not practice was CB Tracy Porter. He has not done so since sustaining a concussion Dec. 23 against the Browns.
Patriots: Coach Bill Belichick remains leery of the ability of 6-foot-5 Texans DE J.J. Watt to knock down passes (even though he failed to get one during the team's regular-season meeting). So he brought out racquetball rackets for QB Tom Brady to throw over during practice. "It gets frustrating at times, but I think it's a very good thing that Coach does," Brady said. "It just subliminally gets it in my head of (Watt's) ability and their ability to defend passes at the line of scrimmage."
Ravens: RB Bernard Pierce and FB Vonta Leach did not practice, and their status for Saturday has not been determined. Pierce is dealing with an undisclosed knee injury. Leach aggravated a sprained right ankle Sunday.
Texans: CB Alan Ball was the only player who didn't practice, and that was only as a precaution. Rain forced the team to its indoor facility. And coach Gary Kubiak didn't want to expose Ball, dealing with a foot injury, to the artificial turf.