During the 2011 season, the Houston Texans were forced to use three quarterbacks due to injuries. It was a season in which they lost their top two signal callers to season ending injuries in consecutive weeks. In 2012, Matt Schaub returned from the linsfrac injury he suffered in 2011 to start all 16 games for the Texans in 2012. Schaub stayed healthy in 2012 and was named to his second Pro-Bowl after leading Houston to a 12-4 record and a second consecutive AFC South title. However, the season did not end the way that he and the Texans had hoped for.
After an 11-1 start that had them positioned at the top of the AFC, the Texans struggled in the season’s last quarter. A 1-3 finish dropped them to third in the conference and that late season slide culminated with the struggles of Schaub and the offense down the stretch. Schaub had a solid season, passing for 4,008 yards, 22 touchdownss, 12 interceptions and a 64.3 completion percentage. He posted a passer rating of 90.7 and a QBR of 62.6. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week in week 11 when he had a career best day vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. His stat line from that game was 43-55 for a 78.2 completion percentage, 527 yards and 5 touchdowns. The 527 passing yards were the second highest single game total in NFL history, and Schaub had his uniform sent to Canton for that accomplishment.
Despite that record setting performance and a record of 19-7 as a starter the past two seasons, many Texans fans were critical of Schaub after the season ended in the playoffs vs. the New England Patriots. That crticism was the direct result of the slide that saw Houston lose 4 out of its last 6 games overall.
In the season ending 1-3 slide, he passed for only 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. The Texans were fighting for the top seed and home-field advantage in those last four games, and all of those games were against teams that made the playoffs. That distinction did little to change the perception of Schaub by many Texans faithful. That perception is that when the pressure is on and the stakes are the highest, he can’t get the job done.
Fair or not, that is the perception Schaub will have hanging over him next season. Skeptics will point to his performance in Houston’s five national television games this past season. When the lights were the brightest in 2012, Schaub did not play his best. The Texans were 3-2 in those four prime-time games plus the Thanksgiving Day game. In those five contests, Schaub passed for only 3 touchdowns while tossing 7 interceptions. His two lowest QBR totals of the season came in two of those games. In the final two weeks of the season when Houston needed only one win to clinch the top seed, Schaub had no touchdowns and 2 costly interceptions in the season finale at Indianapolis. Those games are the reason many Texans fans are questioning whether Schaub can led Houston to a Super Bowl.
To be fair, there is no doubt that he is a good quarterback, and he didn’t just feast on patsies the whole season. He did earn a Pro-Bowl berth based on his play over the season’s first twelve weeks. In wins against two of the Texans strongest opponents this season, the Denver Broncos and AFC champion Baltimore Ravens, Schaub had excellent games. On the road at Denver he was 17-30 for 290 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception in a 31-25 Texans victory. Houston demolished Baltimore 43-13 at Reliant Stadium, and in that game he was 23-37 for 256 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions.
In his first time in the playoffs, Schaub’s performance was uneven at best. In the wild-card win over the Cincinnati Bengals, he completed 76.3% of his passes and threw for 262 yards. He didn’t have a touchdown, and threw a pick six that allowed the Bengals to stay close in a game Houston otherwise statistically dominated. At New England, he passed for 343 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. Many of those yards came in a comeback after the Texans had fallen way behind, while the interception helped open the flood gates.
At his season ending news conference, Gary Kubiak acknowledged that Schaub has to play better in big spots, but also that the team as a whole needs to play better than they did over those last six games. The two go hand in hand, and after a nice comeback season, Schaub will look to take another step in 2013 so that the team can take that next step with him.