Schaub finds success with Texans

HOUSTON Sure, he's improved in his third year as Houston's starter, but the biggest factor might be that he's played each game this season for the Texans. Schaub missed five games in each of his first two seasons in Houston with injuries after being traded from the Falcons.

"It's definitely helped to avoid being sidelined with an injury and just be out there for the full complement of the year and not have any setbacks," Schaub said.

Schaub leads the NFL with a franchise-record 4,467 yards passing and he has thrown 27 touchdown passes this season. His development has helped Houston's passing game flourish and the Texans rank second to the Colts in yards passing a game with almost 291.

The Texans (8-7) remain in playoff contention entering the last weekend of the regular season for the first time in franchise history. They need a win and a lot of help to get one of two AFC wild-card spots, but a victory will give the 8-year-old team its first winning record.

"It's a huge game for us and it's a chance for us to get to 9-7, which we haven't been able to do," Schaub said. "Obviously there's a lot (riding) on the game. It's a playoff game in our mind, a must-win game to stay in the hunt."

Andre Johnson, who leads the league with 1,504 yards receiving, said it makes him proud to look at the top passers in the NFL and see Schaub's name above them all. His year has helped Johnson put up another big season after finishing with an NFL-best 1,575 yards receiving last year.

"He's taken a lot of criticism, but I think this year by what he's done he's kind of shut some people up," Johnson said. "In this league it's about being consistent, so he has to come back and hopefully have a similar year like he had this year and hopefully we can go out and win more games and he'll get the recognition he deserves."

Schaub's injuries in his first two seasons as a starter after spending his first three years as Michael Vick's backup in Atlanta had some questioning his toughness. If those doubts remained this season, he put them to rest when he returned to a game against Jacksonville after dislocating his non-throwing shoulder on the first play.

While Schaub has started every game this season, he's had to deal with an array of different offensive linemen and tight ends because of injuries at those positions.

"This whole league is a war of attrition and is about the team that can avoid the injuries the most and stay healthy the longest and battle through adversity," Schaub said. "We've had some setbacks especially up front and with Owen (Daniels) going down, but everyone else has been able to stay healthy so ... we've been able to battle through it."

Even though Schaub leads the league in yards passing and has numbers comparable to the league's elite quarterbacks in virtually every passing category, he isn't often mentioned as one of them. Coach Gary Kubiak said the reason he isn't yet seen as being on the level of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees is simple.

"Let's face it: quarterbacks in this league are judged in the long haul on winning," Kubiak said. "He's played good football. It's time for him to take his team to the next (level) and that's being a playoff team and having a chance to compete for a championship someday. That's what it's all about. Tom, Peyton and of course I was around John Elway all those years, that's ultimately what those guys are judged upon."

Kubiak, who is a former quarterback, has seen Schaub grow in each of his three years in Houston. He knows he'll have to do more to make this team a contender.

"I think he's doing his part," Kubiak said. "We have to continue to improve as a team and he has to continue to improve as a player. Him being healthy has been a big part and he's been able to do that this year."

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