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The only thing the Houston Texans (3-0) did wrong on Sunday was not allow quarterback Matt Schaub to go home with his entire left ear intact. Other than that, they took care of business the way they had it planned all week.
On a high hit handed out by Denver linebacker Joe Mays, which warranted a flag, Schaub severely cut his left ear and had to come out of the game for a play. It turned out that a chunk of the lobe actually fell off.
“I felt fine,” Schaub said. “I just lost a piece of my ear. I was bleeding and my helmet came off. So, I had to come out for a play, but I was fine.”
Schaub threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns, Arian Foster tallied 105 yards on 25 carries and the Texans held on late to clinch their third consecutive win to open the season, defeating Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (1-2) on the road, 31-25.
“We knew that we had to try to get the ball downfield because they had a lot of people committed to the run,” said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. “We did what we had to do to win, convinced them that we had to make some big plays and they did.”
Houston responded to Denver’s quick five points at the outset with a 60 yard Andre Johnson touchdown to gain a 7-5 lead at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter.
They never trailed again from that point on.
A three yard touchdown pass to Foster and 52 yard strike to receiver Kevin Walter later, the Texans had extended to a 21-5 advantage less than midway through the second quarter.
By halftime the Broncos were not done, though, as they were able to cut it to a 10 point game with two field goals before entering the locker room.
A dominant third quarter by the Texans in which they outscored the Broncos 10-0 put a considerable amount of distance between the two at 31-11.
It appeared to be over, but Manning, as he has always done, would not go down without swinging.
Manning found his old battery mate from his Indianapolis days, Brandon Stokley, for 38 yards and a touchdown to trim the deficit to 31-18 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth.
Another Manning touchdown pass with exactly three minutes left to go gave the Broncos an opportunity to win the game if they could find a way to come up with a much needed stop.
But that didn’t happen, as Schaub found Johnson down the left sideline on a critical 3rd and 5 in Houston territory. They were eventually forced to punt, but by that time the Broncos were left on their 14 yard line with just 20 seconds on the clock.
They tried to pull off a lateral-laced miracle as the clock struck zero, but to no avail.
“Second week in a row we lost by six points,” said Broncos head coach John Fox. “It’s the second week in a row we started very slowly. Different side of the ball this time.”
“We have to learn from this game, address it, be honest, everybody needs to be accountable and try to improve forward,” Manning said. “It’s not the ideal situation. Everybody would love to be 3-0. That’s not the way it is right now.”
While Manning and his new crew are still trying to find themselves, Schaub and the Texans just keep rolling along, even if pieces of body parts are literally being torn off.
Said Kubiak of Schaub’s performance, “Boy, he played like a champ today.”
Image Courtesy of Houston Texans