Schaub needs to improve for a Texans' run

Schaub needs to improve for a Texans' run
January 3, 2013, 8:00 am
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Schaub: 'You're going to have some bad days'

The Texans know Matt Schaub has to play better. Fans know Matt Schaub has to play better. Coaches know Matt Schaub has to play better.

Matt Schaub knows Matt Schaub has to play better.

“I think Matt knows exactly what he needs to do right, and we’ve told him that and I’ll just leave it at that,” Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. “He needs to sharpen his game, and everybody needs to.”

But perhaps no one needs to more than the quarterback.

Last year, Schaub only played in 10 games before an injury ended his 2011 season and T.J. Yates took over and eventually led the Texans to their first-ever playoff win.

There’s an argument to be made that Schaub has only played 10 games this season too.

Since throwing a career-high five touchdown passes on Nov. 18 against the Jaguars – in the 10th game of the season – in an overtime shootout, Schaub has thrown just four in the last six games, to go along with four interceptions. He’s thrown for an average of 245 yards per game in the last six contests.

“I’ve just got to play a little more consistent,” Schaub said. “I definitely know when things aren’t going well to look at myself first because I’m the one that’s putting everyone in position and trying to make the plays. I’ve got to play better. Our whole team, everyone across the board has got to pick their game up especially this time of year, but I definitely do.”

There’s something to the notion that a quarterback is simply criticized when his team plays badly, that no matter what, the blame falls on his shoulders. But often, a team’s success can be directly attributed to the play of the quarterback. A little bit of both might be happening with the Texans.

Schaub has shown the ability to be a game-managing quarterback and (at times) has shown the ability to be the type of quarterback who won’t just control a game, but win it. He did just that against the Jaguars and Lions earlier this season, when he led the Texans on late-game drives. For Schaub, it’s all about consistency. And now would be a good time for him to find it.

Earlier this season, Schaub talked about how tough it was to watch as his team went on without him following his foot injury in 2011. While Schaub gave the Texans a good start, it was Yates who led them to their first playoff win. They beat the Bengals at home in the wild card round (sound familiar?).

This is Schaub’s ninth season in the NFL and Saturday will mark his first-ever playoff start.

“It is exciting,” said Schaub, who rarely shows emotion. “It’s an exciting time of year to be a part of this to get ready to play in a playoff game, especially here at home in front of our home fans. I’m definitely looking forward to it, but the thing that’s going to help us win the game are the same whenever you’re playing, wherever you’re playing. That’s playing smart, clean, good football.”

What the Texans have really been lacking are big plays downfield. Schaub’s longest completion of the season was 60 yards, which would rank him tied for 29th in the NFL. Mark Sanchez, Christian Ponder and Kirk Cousins have all thrown a longer pass this season.

Schaub has completed just 14 passes of 20-plus yards this season and has attempted just 43. With those passes, the Texans have gained 543 yards and five touchdowns.

But the deep-ball problem is an ongoing one all season, the more pressing matter is the last six games, where Schaub has looked like a below-average quarterback. Dennison said despite Schaub’s struggles, the team won’t change their approach, won’t dumb down the offense.

They just need him to play better.

“I expect big things from him,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “It’s a group effort. It’s up to us up front to keep him clean, keep him comfortable back there and able to stand tall. It’s up to the receivers and running backs to make the plays when the ball is delivered to them. I expect him to play at a high level, and I expect everyone else to, as well.”