When veteran media covering the Texans discuss the toughness of Matt Schaub, they often point to one game: Houston’s 2009 visit to Jacksonville, when Schaub was knocked out with a left shoulder injury. According to multiple accounts, Schaub demanded to team doctors that he return to that game as soon as possible. It was a turning point in the quarterback taking control of the locker room as a leader for the team.
Nationally, not many people know that story. Today, everyone knows about Schaub’s toughness, after he spent a total of one play on the bench following having part of his ear (!) ripped off courtesy of a violent hit from Broncos LB Joe Mays. From coast-to-coast, the NFL media raved about Schaub coming back into the game and carrying the Texans to a huge win over the Broncos. For me, his toughness is summarized in a thought: when Schaub left the field against Denver, I had no doubt he was coming back into that game.
With the emergence of Arian Foster, Schaub isn’t putting up the same kind of passing numbers he did back in 2008 and 2009. Gary Kubiak has discussed how the team’s offense has changed, with the demands on the running and passing games shifting week by week. Against the Jaguars in Week 2, Schaub wasn’t forced to throw the football more than 15 yards down the field. Still, Houston won 27-7.
If any doubt exists about Schaub’s ability to hit big plays down the field, Sunday’s game should alleviate all of that. He was money on almost every deep throw against the Broncos; hitting Andre Johnson in stride for a 60 yard TD, and allowing Kevin Walter to run underneath a beautifully-thrown pass for a 3rd TD pass in the first quarter.
We forget, but what happened on the play Mays nearly took Schaub’s head off? Johnson had a chance to catch a terrific pass in the end zone, before it was knocked out by Champ Bailey’s leg. Even there, Matt showed he can go down the field.
The key for Matt Schaub this season is two-fold: stay healthy and win big games. The offensive line needs to keep his jersey a lot cleaner, and the big games begin very shortly. So far, so good for number 8 in 2012