Chalk Talk

Under pressure: Matt Schaub needs to raise his game to keep Super Bowl visions alive

Under pressure: Matt Schaub needs to raise his game to keep Super Bowl visions alive

Matt Schaub Vikings
Matt Schaub needs to regain his mojo. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
Matt Schaub Gary Kubiak
It may not be fair, but in the end the offense's fate rests with Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Matt Schaub Vikings
Matt Schaub Gary Kubiak

The Houston Texans didn’t exactly shower the fans with Holiday cheer in their last regular season home game. In fact, the Texans drew more jeers than cheers from the home crowd on their way to a disappointing 23-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Instead of locking up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, the Texans are left trying to figure out just who they are and what keeps going wrong with the offense. After Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, there was a collective “we have to get whatever it is fixed” in most of the postgame comments. The problem is nailing down that ‘whatever’ issue.

For the record, I don’t believe for one moment this Texans team is overlooking anyone or lacks motivation. They work hard and clearly want to get to the next level. But for some reason they lack intensity and seemingly focus at the most inopportune times.

 The long time mantra about winning in the NFL has been “defense wins championships.” And while I do still subscribe to that theory on some levels, the game has changed. 

In today's all-important game with the Indianapolis Colts, Texans coach Gary Kubiak and company have some real work to do. And it starts with an offense with six Pro Bowl players.

“Probably the biggest disappointment in the last month has been third downs,” Kubiak says.  “The quarterback, the wideouts making plays. I have to make a call for them that puts them in the right, perfect position and we haven’t been doing that.

"You’re one for 11 (on third down) in a game, that’s hard. You better be making some big plays and we weren’t doing that.”

As usual, no excuses from Kubiak but no real answers yet either. There are several leaders on this team, but there is no question the quarterback has got to step up and take the reins of this offense. Unfortunately, Matt Schaub, for all the good he’s done, is not playing championship football.

Now he’s not alone, there is enough blame to go around. This run first offense has been more than a bit stalled. The offensive line is losing the battle in the up front.

When you look at the teams that have played in Super Bowls over the past decade they all have one major thing in common . . . an elite quarterback. Their names are: Eli Manning (two), Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger (two), Peyton Manning, Tom Brady (two) and Brad Johnson. If you’re thinking Johnson doesn’t fit the bill of elite, check out his stats the year he led Tampa Bay to the title in Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego.

 No matter how much Andre Johnson leads by example game in and game out, this offense starts with Schaub. 

The long time mantra about winning in the NFL has been “defense wins championships.” And while I do still subscribe to that theory on some levels, the game has changed. The National Football League is a passing league now and the rules are designed to protect and ensure a healthy passing game. Solid defensive play is absolutely necessary to win in this league, but without an elite quarterback . . . well things start to look a bit bleak.

There is a lot of discussion about where Schaub falls among elite quarterbacks. Let me be clear, I don’t for one moment think the Texans’ shortfalls can all be attributed to Schaub, but he is the leader of this offense. It comes with the territory. No matter how much Andre Johnson leads by example game in and game out, this offense starts with Schaub.

Tight end Owen Daniels says the offense has done some things well, but hasn't really put together a game where they’ve been good on third downs.

“I can’t put a finger on it right now — couldn’t run the ball, hurt ourselves,” Daniels says. “You’d like to find some consistency late in the year so you can feel good about yourself going into the playoffs. We’re confident in what we can do. We just need to find a way to do it.”

Today would be a good time for the Texans to find a way to do it. The offense is kind of limping toward the postseason when the goal is to roll in to the playoffs with some momentum. Of course, Houston (12-3) did win its division and can still secure homefield in the AFC playoffs with a win in Indy over the Colts.

The question is: Will the September  Texans show up or the December Texans? It would be nice to see those early season Texans make a guest appearance for four quarters.

Kim Davis is a journalist with more than two decades of experience covering sports, news and politics in television, radio and print. Kim does weekly "Chalk Talk" segments on Fox 26 Morning News. Follow her on Twitter @kimydavis.