Houston Back in the Mix

Just three weeks ago, playoff contention was closer to a dream than a reality for the Texans. With an inexplicable loss to the Indianapolis Colts in which the Texans blew a 17 point fourth quarter lead with 5 minutes left, the team's playoff chances were slim. Instead of folding as weaker teams would, the Texans have shown a great amount of resolve and fought back with three consecutive victories.

"I think it says a lot about their character," said head coach Gary Kubiak about his team. "It was very difficult. You go through a stage like that it's very easy to go the other way and not be able to dig you're way out of it. But, as I told you guys, the kids always kept working. They always kept battling and believing in what they were doing and never waivered on what we're asking them to do or how we're asking them to do it. They've been fortunate now. They've been rewarded through for hard work. It was nice to be home, but now we've got to get back out there on the road and play some very good football teams. This is a tough league, and you've got to understand that from week to week, day to day and just go out there and do you're best, and like I said, have belief in the direction you're heading. Some good things have happened the past few weeks. So, hopefully we'll just keep going one day at a time."

The change in Houston's fortunes can be directly attributed to the play of Matt Schaub. After the first three weeks of the season, Schaub was one of the lowest ranked passers in the NFL, but he seems to have turned his season around with a strong performance in a 30-27 loss at Jacksonville, and has been playing at a high level in the Texans victories. In the last three weeks, Schaub has completed 71.3% of his passes for 308.7 yards per game, with six touchdowns and just two interceptions, and has a quarterback rating of better than 110 over that period of time.

"Well, I think one of the things that comes up to me when I think about it, it's funny in this league," Kubiak said. "You could be struggling doing something and just keep working and then all of a sudden over a two-, three-, four-week period, you can flip the tables. We weren't very good on third downs the first two weeks. We were ranked in the bottom of the league and all of a sudden we start playing better. And all of a sudden we're sitting here today, you're number one. I talked to the defense about things like that. We've struggled in the redzone, you know, ‘Hey, let's start over today and let's improve from here on.' We go out there yesterday and we hold them 0 for two. So, it's a long season. I don't think you ever get caught up when you're at the bottom of something or think you got it figured out when you're at the top. You just keep working and stay focused on what's going on and obviously, focusing more on the things you're doing poorly."

Schaub has the Texans offense currently ranked fourth in the NFL, and wide receiver Andre Johnson now has the stats to go with his elite reputation. Gary Kubiak talked about Schaub's success—

"I think it's a combination of everything. Our young offensive line is becoming a heck of a group. The two running backs (Steve Slaton and Ahman Green) staying healthy has a lot to do with that. O.D. (TE Owen Daniels) has a lot of confidence and number 80 (WR Andre Johnson) is playing as good as I've ever seen a wide receiver play the game right now. So, all that happening around (QB) Matt (Schaub) is making Matt better and he's obviously playing extremely well himself."

At 3-4, Houston still has plenty of work left to secure a playoff spot. There are still eight teams ahead of the Texans, but only the division leading Tennessee Titans have been as hot recently. With a trip to Minnesota looming this week, the Texans will need to find a way to run the ball against a Vikings team that is the best in the NFC at stopping the run. If Houston can keep up their scoring ways of late, they have a great chance at evening their record.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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