Texans vs. Broncos Take Two: Big Plays Abound for Matt Schaub

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistSeptember 25, 2012

They should give Schaub the Heisman for his game on Sunday.
They should give Schaub the Heisman for his game on Sunday.Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

"Statement games" are overrated.

But when that statement is, "We are the best team in football," they can be a lot of fun.

The Houston Texans edged the Denver Broncos in Week 3, 31-25, in a game that wasn't quite as close as the final score indicated.

After a second look at the tape, here's what stands out.

The Real Story

Matt Schaub is lucky he didn't get killed.

Obviously, the two dastardly personal foul penalties against Denver that culminated in Schaub getting knocked temporarily from the game are what everyone remembers, but there was more to his tough-guy act than just that.

Schaub was under duress most of the game. From the opening safety all the way through to the fourth quarter, the Broncos were coming for Schaub.

And he made them pay.

Of his 290 yards passing, 185 came on four huge plays, the shortest of which went for 26 yards. All four passes eventually resulted in Houston scoring a touchdown.

The Texans didn't sustain drives to wear out the Broncos. That may be their standard M.O., but on this day, the story was all about Schaub hanging tough in the face of the blitz and delivering pristine throws on the money to open men deep downfield.

All things considered, it may have been the best game of his career.

Quarterbacks get too much credit and too much blame, but on this day, Schaub was clearly the driving force behind the victory.


I've said more than enough about Schaub, and J.J. Watt got his own spotlight yesterday.

While several players made big plays, Arian Foster deserves a shout-out for his 25-carry, 105-yard day. Denver has an excellent run defense, and Houston played with the lead most of the game, so Foster had the deck stacked against him.

He was efficient all day and helped his team win in a game where his line didn't play great.


Schaub was only sacked once, but that was for a safety. Derek Newton gave up pressure by Elvis Dumervil on the play. Newton also was responsible for a false start and two holding penalties.

That's called a bad day at right tackle.

On defense, Brice McCain and Kareem Jackson were both a mess in coverage. The struggles of Peyton Manning at various points in the game said much more about his health than they did the Texans' defense.

There were plenty of open men for the Broncos, but Manning couldn't hit them with any regularity.

The Secret Play

With 3:50 to play in the first quarter, the Broncos had a 2nd-and-14 from the Texans' 39-yard line, trailing 14-5.

Manning called a draw play to Lance Ball and for a moment it appeared a seam was open for a big gain.

Earl Mitchell of the Texans was blocked wide by the center on the snap, but spun back and filled the hole in time to shut down the run.

The next play resulted in a sack of Manning and Denver couldn't come away with points.

It's easy to focus on the third-down sack, but that isn't possible if Denver rips off a big run on second down.

Coaching Notes

Gary Kubiak deserves massive props for his correct decision to have Schaub throw with 2:49 to play. A run in that situation might have killed the clock, but Kubiak trusted his best players to win the game.

After Schaub hit Andre Johnson, the chances of a Manning comeback were nil.

There were no questionable kicks or timeouts by Kubiak in the game.

Also of note was the excellent play design throughout for the Texans. A run-based offense may or may not work in the modern NFL, but anyone can see how pretty the Texans' offense looks when properly executed.

Keep an Eye on

The Texans secondary was exposed a bit after draping the Jaguars and Dolphins. Manning wasn't able to take advantage, but there were holes that a healthier quarterback might have exploited.

Given the penchant of the Titans for big plays, watch for Phillips to shore up his coverages for Week 4.

Overall, however, there are few worries for this team right now. Other than good health and good execution, there's nothing standing in their way as their season kicks into gear.

For the Texans, it is next stop: January.


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