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Passing offense reaching new heights


Quarterback Matt Schaub and the Texans are on pace for the best passing season in team history.

If the explosive success of the Texans' sixth-ranked passing offense seems hard to believe, it should.

In the Texans' first five seasons from 2002-06, their passing offense finished with an average NFL ranking of 27.2 out of 32. They averaged a paltry 164.3 passing yards per game in that time span.

Houston had the worst passing offense in the league in 2002, improved to 18th-best by 2004, then relapsed to the 30th- and 27th-ranked passing offense in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

In 2007, quarterback Matt Schaub's first season in Houston and coach Gary Kubiak's second, the Texans produced the league's 11th-best passing attack. They're on track to reach even greater heights this season, averaging 249.5 passing yards per game through Week 7.

Schaub and receiver Andre Johnson are in the midst of the best three-game stretches of their respective careers. The Texans' running game is the best it's been in the Kubiak era, increasing the effectiveness of the play action pass.

Gone are the sack woes that plagued the franchise in its early years. Quarterback David Carr was sacked 76 times in 2002 and 68 times in 2005. The Texans allowed a franchise-record-low 22 sacks last year and are on pace to allow a respectable 37 this season.

Gone are the days when the Texans' passing game consisted of Andre Johnson and Andre Johnson alone. Owen Daniels, who leads all AFC tight ends in receptions and yards, is a menace to defenses over the middle of the field. Sure-handed receiver Kevin Walter and big-play threat André Davis have shown the ability to hurt defenses that pay too much attention to Johnson and Daniels. And running backs Steve Slaton and Ahman Green provide pass-catching threats out of the backfield.

"There are a lot of guys that can make plays," Johnson said. "When they make plays, it helps. You really just don't have to worry about one guy."

The size of Johnson (6-3, 223), Walter (6-3, 214) and Daniels (6-3, 247) gives matchup fits to opposing secondaries and gives an imposing set of targets to Schaub, who has thrown for 953 yards and six touchdowns in his last three games.

{QUOTE}In so doing, Schaub has impressed teammates with his resiliency after a rocky start to the season.

"As a quarterback, he's brought an aggressiveness and a demeanor that we hadn't seen the first couple of years around here," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "He had a couple of bad games, but now you see him come out of that and he is playing a lot better. We all have confidence in Matt.

"One thing as a quarterback, there are going to be a lot of ups and downs… Matt's fighting through it and showing what kind of guy he is and what kind of player he is."

Since 2007, Schaub ranks sixth in the NFL with a 65.9 completion percentage. He finished the win over Detroit a precise 26-of-31 passing with two touchdowns, distributing the ball to seven different receivers during the game.

"I think (with) Matt, you can see a much more comfortable player than he played last season for the Texans," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said on Wednesday. "He's done a good job of really kind of playing with a personality and really kind of coming out. He's good with the ball.

"They do a lot of good things offensively with the play action passes and the screens and things like that. He does a nice job of putting the football where it belongs and putting the ball in the weakness of the coverage."

Schaub and the high-powered Texans' passing game have a big test this week in the Bengals. Despite their 0-7 record, Cincinnati boasts the sixth-ranked pass defense in the NFL with a secondary that includes first-round draft picks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall at cornerback.

"They fly around to the ball," Walter said. "They've got two young corners who are good players. Their safeties, they're big safeties. As far as the secondary overall, they're a good squad.

"I think it's a challenge for us. We've got to go out there and play well, be right on our assignments and make plays out there. Otherwise, those guys can take advantage of us."

Texans' passing offense since 2002:

*Through six games

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