One of my favorite parts of looking in-depth at a game is seeing just how poorly the traditional wisdom missed out on something. Yes, the Texans lost this game in heartbreaking fashion. Yes, Matt Schaub threw a game-ending interception that was returned for a touchdown by Josh Wilson. Yes, for that he deserves some blame for the loss.
Here's the problem with that idea: Schaub's final drive in the fourth quarter to tie this game up was possibly his greatest drive in a Texans uniform. It didn't win the game, like some late drives that he's commandeered did, but it was as incredible a performance as I have seen from him. Particularly considering the factors that he had to perform under to get the Texans to where they were: 90+ yards and one of the best defenses in the NFL.
But hold on, I hear you saying, the Ravens defense was clearly gassed! Jon Gruden told me so! Let's take a sledgehammer to that train of thought as you join me behind the jump.
2:42 remaining, 1st & 10 from Houston 5 -- 16 yard pass from Kevin Walter.
Schaub's first read is clearly covered, Paul Kruger manages to shed Antoine Caldwell--remember that name for later, you might be hearing it again--forcing Schaub to scramble up. Rather than run for it on his legs and probably not get much for the effort, he finds Walter downfield for a nice gain to get the drive rolling.
2:19 remaining, 1st & 10 from Houston 21 -- incomplete pass, thrown away.
On the dropback, you'll notice Caldwell struggling with his man again. Chris Myers helps out, and Cory Redding comes from the other side of the line around once he notices that he'd come unblocked. Notice the uncalled hold that Caldwell gets away with. With the first read apparently scrapped, Schaub throws the ball away.
2:11 remaining, 2nd & 10 from Houston 21 -- 4 yard completion to Arian Foster.
Prior to the snap, Gruden laments the lack of pass rush the Ravens are getting. Right after Schaub had to throw it away solely because of the pass rush the Ravens are getting. My eyes rolled. Anyway, on to this play. Keep an eye on our good friend Caldwell, he's involved again! The Ravens run a stunt and manage to pick Caldwell off of his man. With Haloti Ngata running full bore towards him, Schaub manages to complete the dumpoff to Arian Foster to gain positive yardage.
2:00 remaining, 3rd & 6 from Houston 25 -- 5 yard completion to Jacoby Jones.
A well-designed zone-blitz left LaDarius Webb sneaking up on Schaub unblocked. Schaub unloaded quickly to the hot read, and Jones evades Haruki Nakamura to get the Texans a little bit closer to the first down marker. The Texans scrambled to the LOS but the Ravens called timeout, probably because their pass rushers were so tired of getting pressure.
1:38 remaining, 4th & 1 from Houston 30 -- 7 yard completion to Jones.
For the first time all drive, Schaub is relatively unmolested in the pocket, and he finds Jones on a quick out for seven as the Ravens rush only three, playing the zone.
1:34 remaining, 1st & 10 from Houston 37 -- 20 yard completion to Andre Johnson.
Schaub has to step up quickly on this snap because--you guessed it--Caldwell gets beaten like a drum by Ngata. Fortunately for the Texans, Webb seems to have forgotten that Andre Johnson is pretty good at running routes, and you might want to give him a little less room than "the whole intermediate right side of the field."
1:26 remaining, 1st & 10 from Baltimore 43 -- 8 yard completion to Johnson.
This one is going to Johnson the whole time, and the Texans' line is able to hold up their part of the bargain for the two seconds it took for this slant pass to get rifled in.
1:07 remaining, 2nd & 2 from Baltimore 35 -- 8 yard scramble for first down.
The Ravens continue to play it safe, rushing only 3--and why wouldn't you when you can get pressure anyway? Schaub finds his options covered and runs for it successfully.
1:00 remaining, 1st & 10 from Baltimore 27 -- 10 yard completion to Foster.
The Ravens stunt again, Caldwell can't cover Suggs in time (I know, I'm shocked too!), and the dumpoff to Foster is successful after he dominates his way out of bounds with some tremendous open-field moves.
0:52 remaining, 1st & 10 from Baltimore 17 -- 12 yard completion to Johnson.
The Ravens rush 3 again, and Schaub finds his underneath receiver, who manages to evade Chris Carr and get the Texans inside the five.
I'd like to say that I didn't show you guys the rest of the tape from these last couple of drives because you all know how they ended, but really it's just because I ran out of time on my DVD. Monday Night games jam way too much filler in there, and this one had a lot of possessions anyway.
The final tallies on Schaub's last two drives against that tired Ravens defense? 14 dropbacks, nine hurries, and seven blown blocks (five alone by Caldwell). The five plays that Schaub was unhurried involved three three-man rushes, a quick slant, and the two-point conversion to tie the game. All he did, under extreme duress against one of the best defenses in the NFL, was drive 90 yards in less than two minutes, deliver accurate balls all over the field, and tie the game with two incredibly clutch throws. As I said, it was probably the most impressive drive, in context, I've seen him have with the Texans.
Then he blew it, because, well, they are still the Texans.