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Schaub steps up


Just think what they might do if they ever get their timing down.

The dangerous duo that makes the Texans' offense go – quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson – got reacquainted with each other after a long time apart Sunday.

And the results were mixed.

Not mixed in the opinion of anyone watching. And certainly not mixed by the New Orleans Saints. But Johnson was a little reticent in his own personal review of the return of the team's best two offensive players.

Schaub had missed two games with injuries, including a concussion against San Diego three weeks ago. Johnson hadn't played since a strained knee put him out the second game of the year.

But to most observers, the two looked like they had never been apart Sunday. Schaub hit 21-of-33 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions – a 112.3 passer rating. Johnson, who played in just two games this season before Sunday, was his top target. He had his third 100-yard day of the season, catching 6 for 120.

But did they click?

"That was talked about a lot last week," Johnson said of the rapport between the two. "It's all about communication between a receiver and a quarterback and we had pretty good communication.

"I think our timing was still a little off, but it's been a while. It's not going to come back all in one week. But I think we communicated most of the time."

{QUOTE}Jerry Rice and his "Dancing With the Stars" partner Anna Trebunskaya would like to have had such bad timing. The rest of the Texans couldn't see any missteps – including Schaub.

"I felt great out there and was really seeing the field well," Schaub said. "But that is the result of 10 guys around me playing tremendously as well. The game ball really goes to the offensive line for the job protecting me and opening up holes."

The offensive line tipped their hats to Schaub.

"Schaub is great," offensive tackle Eric Winston said. "He has done an unbelievable job all year.

"With Schaub in there, it's always a lot of fun because he's going to hit those big passes. You know he's going to hit the big plays and he always seems like he knows what's going on. He's real smart about the things he does. You can't say enough about the guy.

"He steps up when he's supposed to and he gets the ball off. That's what I like about him."

Schaub was about as close to perfect the first half as a quarterback can be. He hit 13-of-19 for 235 yards and two touchdowns for a 145.7 passer rating, including a huge play in the first quarter when he hit a wide-open Johnson for a 73-yard touchdown.

Schaub, who sat out the Oakland game with the concussion, expected heavy pressure early from the Saints. But it never came.

"We thought they would come in and try to come after us a little bit and disrupt the pocket," Schaub said. "But they didn't. Once we started to hit some plays downfield, that's when they decided to bring some pressure and bring fire with their line.

"That opened up some holes to hit our tight ends and our receivers."

Tight end Owen Daniels noticed. He caught all five of his passes for the day for 74 yards the first half.

"It's good to have him back healthy," Daniels said of Schaub. "He does a great job out there. He just leads us. And it's not just telling us the plays. He's a field general out there and always is talking to us and giving us little words of encouragement."

Schaub, of course, has nothing but praise for Johnson, whom the Texans have missed perhaps more than anyone this season.

"He just brings a level of excitement," Schaub said. "He's a playmaker and he's one of the leaders on our team. He's been doing good things in this league for a number of years.

"He lifts the level of play and the explosiveness of our offense. The guys who have been playing for him have made a lot of big plays, but he does bring a different level of excitement to this team."

The win brought the Texans back to .500 at 5-5 for the first time ever, reigniting talk of the playoffs – especially with their terrible twosome back.

"It was a huge win for us," tackle Ephraim Salaam said. "Just to see everybody pull together and to get those two guys back. Matt came back and did a hell of a job."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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