Next we’ll find out if they can win without quarterback Matt Schaub.
Coach Gary Kubiak announced Monday that Schaub has a “significant foot injury” and will not play after the team’s bye week. Matt Leinart will start against Jacksonville on Nov. 27. Adam Schefter has since reported it's a Lisfranc injury that will end Schaub's season.
Sunday in Houston, the Texans brought several key players out of the small visitors locker room at Raymond James Stadium to conduct interviews in the tunnel. Schaub would be one of them, they said.
Twenty minutes later they announced he was talking at his locker, and he was still in shorts and a T-shirt while many of his teammates had dressed and headed for the bus.
Now the quarterback is in a boot. Maybe that trek wasn’t going to be comfortable, or even possible, for him in Tampa.
After he talked I asked about his foot, which had been played as an afterthought. He said it was fine.
Schaub’s passing numbers are not as big as they’ve been in some seasons, largely because of how well the Texans are running the ball. He’s still a key cog, orchestrating the play-action and bootleg work the team features on offense. He threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones on the first play from scrimmage in the rout of the Buccaneers after the defense bit on a fake handoff and didn't respond well to Schaub's rollout.
He's not the most mobile quarterback, but he's very good at throwing on the move and it's something the Texans rely on.
We don’t know how well Leinart has developed and how much Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will need to alter a plan to fit him. Leinart's left-handed, which could also be an adjustment on the direction of some plays and on how targets react to his passes.
The Texans are expecting Johnson to return from a six-game layoff from a hamstring injury after the bye, and he can give Leinart a big upgrade in weaponry.
Kubiak has talked a great deal about his faith in Leinart.
"He liked his opportunity here," Kubiak said of Leinart's decision to return to the team in the offseason. "He liked this football team. He likes what we do offensively. You never know how an opportunity is going to occur, but here we go. It’s a big one for him and his career. He’s had a lot of reps. We’ve cut back on Matt’s [Schaub's] reps the last month at practice so [Leinart] has gotten a ton of reps.
"He has played in big football games in this league. He’s played a lot of football. He’s played in big football games in college. Matt has been around it, but the key is that the whole football team rally around him and playing well as a football team. Matt doesn’t have to go win a game. The team has to go win a game. We’ll rally around him and get him ready to go.”
Houston’s won four in a row to get to 7-3, tied for the best record in the AFC.
Tennessee is the only team with a chance of catching the Texans in the AFC South. If the Titans win Sunday in Atlanta, they’ll be 6-4, a game and a half off Houston's pace because they lost head-to-head to the Texans in Nashville on Oct. 23.