Matt Schaub is still trying to regain some of the 8 pounds he lost nearly two weeks ago because of a stomach virus, but that's not why he's feeling a little lighter on his feet this week.
The Texans' 29-28 victory over Miami Sunday snapped a season-opening, four-game losing streak and provided some much-needed confidence to a team projected to improve on last season's 8-8 mark. More than that, Schaub's winning touchdown run capped a week -- and perhaps a season, if not longer -- that Schaub would rather leave in the past.
Schaub: Behind the TD
After signing a six-year, $48 million contract after being acquired in a trade from Atlanta in the 2007 offseason, Schaub's first year as a full-time starter was up and down. He started 11 games, winning four. A shoulder injury and concussion sidelined him for five games. In his absence, Sage Rosenfels won four of the five games he started in Schaub's place.
Things were just as shaky to start this season, as Schaub threw five interceptions and four touchdowns in the first three games, all losses. Amid that, Hurricane Ike displaced and damaged much of metro Houston. Schaub and the Texans failed to provide any leisurely relief.
Then came the double whammy that left Schaub and -- eventually -- the team's followers sick to their stomachs for days.
"I was at home relaxing after the Saturday walk-through and it hit me like a ton of bricks," Schaub said of a debilitating stomach virus that cost him 8 pounds and the starting job against the Colts on Oct. 5. "It was a very wild ride."
Rosenfels filled in for Schaub and led Houston to a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead. Three turnovers by Rosenfels -- two fumbles -- in the final four minutes cost the Texans a victory against Indianapolis and Rosenfels a possible shot to start the following week against Miami. Coach Gary Kubiak re-inserted Schaub as the starter, but public sentiment behind Schaub waned. To make matters worse, Schaub and the Texans opened poorly against the Dolphins, leading to fans' cries for Schaub to be replaced.
Though Schaub said he ignored the chants, he understood the discomfort of the situation. While serving as Michael Vick's backup for three seasons in Atlanta, there were calls by some fans -- and privately some teammates -- for Schaub to replace the dazzling but inconsistent Vick in the hybrid West Coast scheme Schaub was more versed in because he played some semblance of it at the University of Virginia. Though his relationship with Vick never suffered, the frequent public discussion didn't always keep things comfortable.
"I wasn't paying any attention to any of those things," Schaub said of the calls for Rosenfels. "I just focused on the things I had to do to win a football game. I had some struggles, but all in all I played fairly well. Now, I'm going to keep moving forward. You can't think about what's happened in the past, good or bad."
Schaub (22-of-42, 379 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs vs. Miami) said for him to progress, he has to keep a streamlined approach and not think about too many things, such as his job security or perceptions about him being/not being the team's best option at quarterback. The Texans, as a whole, need to share the approach if they are to make something out of their season, he added.
"We can't get consumed with the big-picture stuff," Schaub said. "We realize where we are and what needs to be done. Good things will happen for us if we keep our heads down and keep moving forward. If we do that, we'll like what we see when we look up at the end of the season."
Haslett: No dousing joy of victory
"I am just so glad for the people in the building and our players," said Haslett, who was promoted from defensive coordinator after Scott Linehan was fired three weeks ago. "We hadn't won a game in so long."
When asked if there's been any discussion about the Rams viewing the NFC West as being wide open, Haslett scoffed.
"We haven't won enough games around here to think about something like that," he said. "Before we took over we had three wins in our last 20 games. It's not like we're a winning machine."
"They know this is the most talented football team in the league even with players out," Haslett said. "We're going to have to play extremely well to play with them, minimize mistakes and overcome them when we make them. That might not even be enough."
Kiffin doesn't cross Lanes
A minor stir was created last week when Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell disclosed that recently fired head coach Lane Kiffin had called to wish him luck before the eventual loss to the Saints. Russell said that besides the well wishes, Kiffin also talked to him about the Saints' defense and schemes.
Though there clearly are some harsh feelings about Kiffin among some with the Raiders, a team source said Kiffin never interfered with the individual teaching of Russell by position coach/offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Though Kiffin called plays and worked in conjunction with Russell when he was the head coach, Knapp had relative autonomy with the quarterbacks.
A change of views
Now that the Falcons are 4-2 and tied for the NFC South lead, there seems to be a lot of revisionist history in the locker room. First, a smattering of the current perspective:
"Nobody gave us a chance," center Todd McClure said. "We knew, with this group of guys, going all the way back to training camp, what kind of team we had."
Safety Lawyer Milloy: "That's why you play the game. You can't worry about predictions or what people are writing about you. This team never cared about all that stuff."
Boy, winning is a beautiful thing. While wide receiver Joe Horn was the only player who publicly said he didn't want to be part of the team's rebuilding process and got his wish by being released in August, there were several other veterans in the offseason who wanted out, too.
Apparently not anymore.