DENVER – Texans quarterback Matt Schaub tied a career high with four touchdown passes on Sunday, but it came at a price:
Part of his left ear.
Early in the third quarter of the Texans' 31-25 victory at Denver, Schaub was tagged by the Broncos with two consecutive late hits that drew 15-yard penalties. The second, a vicious blow to the head by Broncos linebacker Joe Mays, popped Schaub's helmet off and knocked him to the ground.
Schaub was bleeding from his left ear and immediately tended to by a group of Texans trainers as he lay on the field. He eventually got up and walked to the sideline under his own power. It appeared that his helmet gashed his earlobe as it flew off from the impact of Mays' hit.
"I felt fine," Schaub said after the game. "I just lost a little piece of my ear and I was bleeding and my helmet came off, so I had to come out for a play, but I was fine."
Backup quarterback T.J. Yates went into the game for all of one play before Schaub returned to the field from the sideline.
"He's one tough S.O.B.," Yates said after the game. "He took a beating out there. He took some cheap shots. He got hit with his helmet off, got a big cut on him, and he still came out there and played a heck of a game. He's one tough guy. It's inspiring to see."
A play before the hit from Mays, Schaub was hit late by linebacker Von Miller after throwing a two-yard pass to Kevin Walter for a first down. Miller hit Schaub and drove him into the ground after Schaub had released the ball.
Schaub went to the locker room briefly in the third quarter for X-rays on his left shoulder. They were negative.
"It's funny," running back Arian Foster said. "I was talking stuff to (Schaub) about two weeks ago, I said, 'Quarterbacks don't get hit. You guys don't ever take any punishment.' And he comes out and he got a couple of big hits. I told him after the game, 'Man, you've got all my respect.' Whenever you see your quarterback, your leader, step up like that and take those kind of hits and then still get back in the game, it's encouraging. It's inspiring."
Tight end Owen Daniels called Schaub "a warrior." Defensive end Antonio Smith said it "takes a fearless quarterback" to make the throws Schaub made on Sunday, when he was officially hit four times and sacked once. Kubiak called Schaub's performance "gutsy" and "exceptional."
"I told Matt five times today, he's the man," left tackle Duane Brown said. "I've been telling people for a long time that he's an elite quarterback and we have to put him up there with the best in the league, and he showed it today. He stood in the pocket, took some brutal shots and never blinked. He put up big numbers against a pretty good secondary."
Schaub threw his 100th touchdown pass Sunday with a 60-yard bomb to Andre Johnson in the first quarter. He also hit Walter for a 52-yard touchdown with a picture-perfect throw.
"I've seen Matt play a lot of good games, and this is right up there with it," Walter said. "He took some hits, he comes out one play, he's right back in, throws four touchdowns. The guy's a true player."
Kubiak gave Schaub the game ball in the postgame locker room, an honor that several of Schaub's teammates said couldn't have gone to anyone else.
"It's the ultimate compliment when your teammates feel that way about you," Schaub said. "It's just me being the quarterback. I've got to be out there every play. You're going to get hit in this league, and you've got to just take it and go."