This is Part II detailing Matt Schaub's time with the Houston Texans. If you missed Part I, click here to read it. Don't lie to yourself! Go back and read it if you haven't yet.
After another 8-8 season and ending 2007 with a 5-1 record, Houston was ready for something more than just mediocrity. When you're crappy, you pray for mediocrity (unless you love tanking). When you're mediocre, you pray for the playoffs. When you're a playoff team, you pray for a championship. When you're crappy again, you pray for a good pick and the chance rekindle the that feeling of success again. In 2009, the Texans were in the mediocre-to-playoffs transition, and the jump to the playoffs would have been possible if not for some horrendous luck that could only happen to the newest team in the NFL.
To compete for a Wild Card spot, Houston needed Matt Schaub to play a full season and end every question concerning his durability. If he missed any time, Rex Grossman would be the next one in line since Sage Rosenfels was traded to the Vikings (and then got Favre'd). Oh yeah, and that 29th ranked defense that posted a DVOA of 13.5% had to improve as well. The first issue would have to be answered as the season dragged on since Schaub missed nine starts and was knocked out of three games the previous two years. The Texans attempted to address the second predicament by signing Antonio Smith and Shaun Cody and through the draft. In the 2009 NFL Draft, Houston took Brian Cushing (1st round), Connor Barwin (2nd round), Glover Quin (4th), Brice McCain (6th), and Troy Nolan (7th). If the defense could finally play at an adequate level and Schaub played an entire season, Houston had a chance to turn mediocrity into answers.
To start the 2009 season, Schaub played one of the worst games of his career, and the defense, filled with new personnel, looked the same as the old in a game that will be always remembered for "Pay Me Rick" fiasco (thanks, Dunta Robinson). Against the Jets, Schaub completed 18 of 33 passes for 166 yards and one interception. The defense gave up 462 yards, 6.3 yards per play, and made rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez--making his first start in the NFL, on the road--look like a legitimately good NFL QB. Sanchez threw for 272 yards (18-31) and one touchdown in his first career start. As usual, Gary Kubiak took the blame for the abomination.
""The offensive football team gave us no chance and that starts with me. There's nobody that can feel anything good coming out of this football game."
Also as usual, the fans booed the team off the field when their optimism was met with disappointment.
The following week, Houston would head to Tennessee. Matt Schaub would play the best game of his career up to this point. Houston went down 21-7 early, thanks to two Chris Johnson touchdowns, one of which Texans fans will surely remember. On the first, Johnson turned a draw play on 3rd and 19 yard into a 57 yard touchdown as he ran right past Eugene Wilson into the end zone. The second, which is more likely to be remembered with horror by Texans fans, had him lined up as a wide receiver on the left sideline. Nobody on the defense accounted for him. Once the ball was snapped, Kerry Collins threw a lazy two yard pass. Johnson caught the pass and ran 59 yards into the end zone with nobody in front of him (6). The Frank Bush era, everyone!
Nevertheless, as Andre Johnson said in 2007, when the Texans fell behind, they still believed they could come back. This would be one of those occasions. Schaub would lead them back by throwing three touchdowns; two were to Andre Johnson, one of which was maybe the greatest catch of his career,
The other was to Jacoby Jones. Houston would finally take the lead and kick a 23 yard field goal with 2:55 to give them a game-winning 34-31 lead. In this game, Schaub displayed it all. He showed the ability to throw the ball deep down the field, the ability to fit the ball into tight windows in the slot, and continued to answer back what Chris Johnson did on the other sideline. He finished the game with a stat line of: 25-39, 357 yards, and 4 touchdowns.
The Texans then followed the first two weeks with a wild patch of the season and lost a few games in "IS THIS REAL LIFE?!?" ways.
Week 3 vs. Jacksonville: Even though Maurice Jones-Drew gained 119 yards and crossed the goal line three times (8), the Texans had a chance to tie the game. Chris Brown would begin a streak of poor crunch time performances by players whose name is a variation of "Chris Brown". Hey, I was at this game, and it still is the only Texans game I've ever been to. We occupied a section of space in the south end zone. In the fourth quarter, the Texans were down 31-24 and drove into the red zone. On 2nd and goal, with the ball placed on Jacksonville's two, Houston handed the ball to their goal line back. He ran forward, and from our perspective it looked like the fell into the end zone to take the lead. We all erupted in a bombardment of Hoorahs!, Hoorays!, Yeahs!, Go Texans! and Woooos! only to see a Jaguars player stand up with the football. Our high-fiving hands went from outstretched and smothered by other palms to on top of our heads. After reviewing the pla, Jacksonville did in fact recover the fumble in the end zone, and Houston would lose by the same score. In that loss, Schaub threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Week 5 vs. Arizona: Houston had three three-and-outs in the first half and fell behind 21-0 early. However, in the second half, Schaub and Andre Johnson brought them back. Chris Brown punched in a one yard touchdown run and Schaub threw two touchdown passes to 'Dre to tie the game, including one of the toughest runs by a receiver in recent memory. With the game tied at 21 in the fourth quarter, Houston was driving and Schaub was in the middle of ten straight completions. On pass attempt number eleven with 2:30 left, Schaub stared down Kevin Walter in the flat, released the football and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie stepped in front of the pass. DRC then took it 49 yards for a touchdown to give Arizona a 28-21 lead.
The Texans were still not done yet. They proceeded to move the ball back into Arizona's red zone thanks to a 63 yard kickoff return by Andre Davis. The Texans needed six yards in a minute and twenty-seven seconds to tie the game. First down: five yard pass to Steve Slaton. Second down: 0 yard run up the middle by Chris Brown. Third down: Incomplete pass to Joel Dreessen. Fourth Down: 0 yard run up the middle by Chris Brown. Cardinals win. Did I mention I hate Chris Brown?
Week 9 vs. IND: After going 4-2 since Week 2 and having a 5-3 record, the Texans headed to Indy to play the 7-0 Colts. The Texans were behind 20-17 and had the ball in Colts' territory. Matt Schaub then threw an interception to Clint Sessions. Indianapolis played keepaway with 2:13 left in an attempt to put the game away, but the Texans' defense forced a three and out and handed the ball back to the offense. If we don't include a spike to stop the clock, Schuab went 8/8 for 59 yards on the final drive and walked off the field for Kris Brown to kick a 42 yard field goal. He missed left, of course, and Houston would fall to 4-3. The Texans then lost their next three games by one score, one of which was...
Week 11 vs.Tennessee: Kris Brown missed a 49 yard field goal to send the game into overtime, where Houston lost 20-17. This led to a five year drought of a variation of the name "Chris" given to any child with the last name Brown (9) who was born in Houston.
After 12 games, Matt Schuab had thrown for 3,449 yards, completed 68% of his passes (295-434), had 22 touchdowns, and had 12 interceptions. Despite Schaub's performance, the Texans ran for 100 yards only four times, averaged 3.5 yards a carry, and 580 of their 781 offensive plays came when they were losing. The defense was allowing quarterbacks to complete 61.7% of their passes, and opposing running backs averaged 4.59 yards a carry. The Texans had found the final way to lose: Let your quarterback down by everyone else pooping the bed.
Then, out of nowhere, the Texans turned in four straight wins after words like "reeling" and "falling" were used to describe Houston. They beat (10) Seattle 34-7 (5-8), St. Louis 16-3 (1-13), Miami 27-20 (7-8) before facing New England in the final week of the season. During this three game stretc,h Schaub threw for 1,018 yards, completed 70% of his passes, was sacked once and even threw for 336 yards in the first half against Seattle. For the first time in franchise history, the Texans were beginning to win because of their quarterback play, not in spite of it. Houston also received a boost in the run game by starting future All-Pro Arian Foster over Ryan Moats and Steve Slaton beginning in Week 16 against Miami.
In Week 17, for the first time in franchise history, the Texans were in the middle of a scenario where they could somehow, someway, weasel their way into the playoffs if things broke right. The playoffs were a tangible thing, not some hallucination brought on by ingesting cobra venom or walking for 24 hours straight. Houston could actually get in. Entering Week 17 there were four AFC teams, who were 8-7 (including Houston). The Texans needed help to get in. First they had to beat the Patriots, who were 10-5 and trying to reach the Super Bowl again after finishing 18-1 the year before. Tom Brady, and every starter except five, played for the first two quarters before the second team came in. Before Brian Hoyer arrived in the second quarter, the Patrioits were up 10-7. The Texans kicked two field goals to tie the game 13-13 before the end of the half. New England answered by putting their starters back in (including Brady) and as a result, they jumped back out to a 27-13 lead with 14:04 remaining, thanks to a Schaub pick-six and a Fred Taylor touchdown. Houston then took the lead back thanks to a Jacoby Jones eight yard touchdown catch and two Arian Foster trips beyond the goal line. Bill put Brian Hoyer back in for the two minute warning, and Hoyer failed to put the Texans away. For the first time in franchise history, Houston finished the season with a winning record.
But that wasn't enough to make the playoffs. In addition to a Texans win, two teams out of the group of 8-7 teams (Baltimore, Denver, and New York Jets) had to lose. Denver was hosting 3-12 Kansas City, Baltimore played 5-11 Oakland, and the Jets traveled to 10-5 Cincinnati. After the Houston game ended, everyone invested in the Texans did their playoff dance and watched, waited, and hoped two of these three teams would lose. Denver and Baltimore played the late afternoon game; at around 6:30 central time Denver had lost to Kansas City 44-24, and Baltimore had won 21-13. All attention turned to Sunday Night Football, where Houston's playoff hopes were completely in the hands of the Bengals as they played the 8-7 Jets. If the Bengals won, the Texans were in the playoffs. If the Bengals lost, the Jets made the playoffs and the Texans would continue to wait for postseason glory.
The Jets and Bengals game was broadcast on NBC, and right away Cincinnati came out flat. The Bengals had already clinched a playoff berth, and they laid down. Cincinnati rested their starters in the third quarter, and let the Jets roll all over them. They lost to the Jets 37-0 in a game where Carson Palmer finished with a stat line of 1-11 for 0 yards and 1 interception. That is not fictitious. Consequently, Houston would stay home and the Bengals would play the Jets again in the Wild Card round. In a fitting result, the Bengals lost to the Jets again by a score of 34-24. Since then, the Sky Line Chili Guzzlers have been cursed (10).
Since 2009, when Cincinnati rested their starters against the Jets, Houston clinched their first AFC South title against the Bengals, beat them in the wild card round in 2011, and beat them again in the wild card round in 2012. Additionally, the Bengals still have yet to escape the first round of the playoffs. For the record, Bob McNair was none to happy after the Bengals rested their starters and laid down a wicked curse upon the Bengals (7).
Even though Houston did not make the playoffs it was their first season above .500 and the best season in Schaub's life. He carried the offense down the field consistently, despite him working with a rushing attack that sported a DVOA of -14.1%. At age 28, Schaub, posted the highest DVOA of his career of 29.3% (6th), the highest DYAR of his career of 1,624 (6th), threw for the most yards (4,770) and touchdowns (29) in his career, earned his first Pro Bowl appearance. He even won a Pro Bowl MVP.
This all came before Arian Foster revolutionized Houston's run game. Schaub led comebacks, answered opponents' drives with those constructed of his own, and most importantly, he finally played the first full season of his entire career. He threw every pass for the Texans except for 10. One was a halfback pass Chris Brown threw for an interception (gah!) and the other nine came from the cannon arm of Rex Grossman, who briefly filled in for Schaub when he suffered a separated shoulder against the Jags. Houston barely missed playing the Wild Card round in Paul Brown Stadium. It was an incredible season, and Houston finally reaped the benefits of the trade they made for him.
Schaub's 2009 season stats:
Schaub's Best Game: Week Six vs. Cincinnati: 28-40 (70%) 392 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 1 Interception, 124.2 Rating.
NFL Game Rewind Game to Watch: Tie: Week Two vs. Tennessee and Week 17 vs. New England.
Houston began the season playing the evil empire, the Indianapolis Colts. A horde of white shirts buzzed and blazed on Liberty White Day. The crowd came to Reliant Stadium in Week One with one thing on their mind--playoffs. Mario Williams battered Peyton Manning like flounder on a Friday in March, but Arian Foster stole the show. After starting the last two games of 2009 at running back, Foster became the man to lead the zone scheme coming out of camp in 2010, and the world was his stage in the season opener. He took over in the second half, running for 191 yards, at an average of 8.3 yards a carry, and three touchdowns. The best sequence came in the 4th quarter. The Texans led 20-10 with 10:38 remaining and Foster, in order, broke runs of 42, 13, 11, and 25 yards for a touchdown. This demoralizing set of runs exemplified Houston's physical run attack and made Indy's defense look like they wanted to do anything else in the world other than play football.
The following week, things fell back to earth. Schaub was forced to throw every down and had to put the team on his back in a game that symbolized the entire 2010 season. Kubiak's crew fell behind by 17 points against the Redskins, who were quarterbacked by Donovan McNabb. Schaub finished the game completing 19 of his 29 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown, including a gorgeous 33 yard Hail Mary to Andre Johnson on fourth down. Foster, on the other hand, had only 7 carries for 23 yards after the team went down early. In overtime, Neil Rackers knocked down a game-winning field goal. Schaub's final numbers in the nation's capital? 38-52, 497 yards, three touhcdowns, and one interception. Oh, and in case you are not impressed yet, since 1963 only fifteen players had ever thrown for more than 495 yards in a game.
After starting the season 2-0, Houston went .500 and entered their bye week with a 4-2 record. They then lost to Indy 30-17 on Monday Night Football and pulled off a three week streak of losses in games only the Texans could lose.
Week 9 vs. San Diego: In Houston, Andre Johnson catches a pass that would have placed Houston into San Diego's red zone, but the ball slams against his knee, jumps into the air and is intercepted by Paul Oliver at the nine yard line. 2010 sucks.
Week 10 vs. Jacksonville: It's tied 24-24. Everyone is getting prepared for overtime. However, one play remains before that happens. A ball must be tossed into the end zone. David Garrard throws the ball fifty yards into the rectangle at the end of the field. Glover Quin does what he has been told to do at every level of his playing career, swat the ball down. He does. The ball falls into Mike Thomas's arms. The Texans lose. The Q-Tip is born. 2010 sucks.
Week 11 vs. New York Jets: The Texans are down 23-7 entering the fourth quarter in New Jersey. They respond by scoring 20 unanswered points, giving them a 27-23 lead. With 55 seconds left Mark Sanchez drives the Jets 72 yards down the field and throws a game-winning touchdown to Santonio Holmes with 0:16 left on the clock. 2010 sucks.
After the hilarious set of losses, Houston proceeded to lose four of their last six to finish the season 6-10. Houston ran 589 plays while playing from behind, compared to 440 with a lead or tied.
|W/ Lead or Tied||123||193||63.7%||1,377||7||2||7.1||92.7|
The Texans were constantly down, and Matt Schuab was forced to either throw to keep them in the game or throw to bring them back. Their run-pass ratio was not what Gary Kubiak envisioned coming into 2010 with Arian Foster rather than Steve Slaton or Ryan Moats in the backfield. As a result, Schaub put up the following numbers.
|365||574||63.6%||4,370 (4th)||24||12||930 (8th)||12% (13th)|
Despite the gaudy counting numbers we see, Schaub was not as efficient as he was in 2009. This is because of the context the offense operated under. Thanks, pass defense (11). THEY WERE THE WORST.
|Cmp||Att||Cmp%||YDs||INT||NY/A||1st Downs||DVOA||Adj Sack Rate||300 Yd Passers||400 Yd Passers||100 Yd Recievers|
|354 (24)||547 (12)||64.7%||4,280 (32)||13 (23)||7.4 (31)||211 (30)||33.1% (32)||6.3% (17)||6||2||10|
Like virtually all of Houston's previous seasons, 2010 was as difficult as a spoonful of cinnamon to swallow. In 2009, the Texans could not run or stop the run. In 2010, they could not stop opponents from raining footballs into the arms of their receivers. Same old Texans. When the leaking sink is fixed, the refrigerator stops running. When the refrigerator stops running, the dog gets hit by a car. When the dog gets back from the hospital, the sink begins to leak again.
After two years of mediocrity, and an oh-so close playoff miss, a step backwards meant that something had to change. The, as BFD puts it, "Loyal to a Fault" Gary Kubiak barely saved his job, finally cut ways with Frank Bush, and the front office took a stand to fix the worst pass defense of all time. In the offseason, Rick Smith went all in and signed Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning, drafted J.J, Watt and brought Captain Wade Phillips on to lead the defense. All of that will be discussed in the next installment.
Statistically, Schaub had another stellar season, but the Texans won only six games because the pass defense resembled a 1995 NBA jersey made by Starter.
Best Matt Schaub game: Week 2 vs. Washington: 38-52, 497 YDs, 3 TDs, 1 INT, Rating 114.0.
NFL Game Rewind Must See: Week 1 34-24 win vs. Indianapolis (12).
Check Battle Red Blog on Monday for Part III of the discussion.
(6) He also broke a 91 yard touchdown run.
(7) "I'm disappointed with the way Cincinnati played," Texans owner Bob McNair said. "I thought that probably that game, the odds were a little more in our favor than any of the other games [Sunday]. As it turned out, they just left their game at home."
(8) This was the first and only Texans game I attended. When MJD scored the second of this three touchdowns, he walked to the wall of the south end zone with his chest puffed out. They responded with a flurry of middle fingers and obscenities. Ain't football great?
(9) Against the Jaguars in Week 13, Houston lost 23-18. Chris Brown fumbled the ball at the goal line again and threw an interception on a that notorious halfback pass. Rex Grossman also threw an interception after filling in for a quarter for Schaub, who separated his shoulder. Schaub still came back to finish the game.
(10) Its also worth mentioning Houston beat the Bengals 28-14 earlier that season. That loss may have played into the Bengals' decision to not even attempt to beat the Jets. They chose to play New York rather than Houston.
(11) It could have been worse too, but Houston was lucky enough to play against Trent Edwards and Rusty Smith who both threw for less than 150 on Houston. However, they did give up 300 yards passing to Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez.
(12) If you pick one of the recommended games to watch, this is the one.