Quarterback Matt Schaub finished fifth in the NFL in completion percentage.
When the Texans acquired quarterback Matt Schaub in March through a trade with the Falcons, Houston committed to a new style of offense and a new face of the franchise.
It's a commitment the team is glad it made.
In his first season as Texans starter, Schaub notched a franchise-record 87.2 quarterback rating and finished fifth in the NFL in completion percentage at 66.4 percent. He was just one-tenth of a percentage point behind Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
Schaub proved that he could play with the league's best, but the quarterback also was thankful that he had an outstanding backup. Schaub suffered several serious injuries, both coming from illegal hits, and injured his shoulder late in the season.
Assuming duties under center in nine different games was seven-year veteran Sage Rosenfels, who had backed up former Texans quarterback David Carr in 2006.
Rosenfels started five games and took every advantage of his opportunity, going 4-1 as a starter. He ended the season with 1,684 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 84.8.
Together, the quarterbacks helped set a franchise single-season record with 3,751 passing yards and combined for an average of 234.4 yards passing.
From the start
The Texans had high hopes for Schaub at the beginning of the season, and the fourth-year pro delivered from the start. In the Texans' home opener against Kansas City, he completed 16-of-22 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown, a career-long 77-yard pass to wide receiver Andre Johnson.
After the game, head coach Gary Kubiak admitted he was impressed with the quarterback.
"When the football team needed him to make some big plays late in the game, he made a great throw to the tight end on a big third down, made a great play to Andre scrambling," Kubiak said. "This kid likes to play. He's going to come out there and play for four quarters. He's going to make some mistakes, but he's going to make some damn good plays, too."
Schaub put together another stellar outing the following week in Carolina, recording 227 yards passing and two touchdowns in the Texans' 34-21 win.
"It was just executing what was in our plan and what we've been doing," Schaub said after the game. "There are things that were open, and we executed our plays. It's huge on the road to take that first drive in the third quarter after the halftime to get some points and establish ourselves in that half."
As the season progressed, Schaub also faced growing pains as a starter, namely reading blitzes and protecting the ball.
The hard hits
Schaub's first major setback occurred in Week 7 against Tennessee when defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth delivered a knock-out hit. The illegal hit forced the quarterback to leave the game with a hip injury and some wooziness.
Rosenfels took over and threw four fourth quarter touchdown passes that put the Texans ahead 36-35 with 57 seconds to play. It was just enough time for the Titans to get within range for Rob Bironas' NFL record eighth field goal to give Tennessee a 38-36 victory.
Rosenfels completed 22-of-35 passes for 290 yards; however, in addition to his touchdown passes, he had three interceptions.
"We didn't do much until the fourth quarter," Kubiak said. "He (Rosenfels) kept battling. He's got some plays that he should've had back. But he gave us a chance to win too."
After the disappointing loss, the Texans traveled to San Diego where the hits kept coming.
Schaub returned to action only to leave the game in the second quarter with a concussion after an illegal hit by Chargers cornerback Drayton Florence. The NFL fined Florence $15,000 for the hit following the game.
Almost on the rebound
Nursing his injury, Schaub didn't play the next week in Oakland, where the team rebounded with a 24-17 win. Rosenfels made his first start as a Texan and completed 11-of-19 passes for 181 yards with one touchdown. It was Rosenfels' first-career win as a starter.
After resting during a much-needed off week, Schaub and the Texans returned to action against the New Orleans Saints. The starting quarterback looked as good as new, throwing for 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Meanwhile, his favorite target, Johnson, played in his first game since suffering a knee injury in Week 2 and caught a team-high six passes for 120 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown strike on the first offensive play of the game.
It appeared the tandem that had found a rhythm at the beginning of the season was back in sync. That all ended in Tennessee when Schaub separated his shoulder on a sack by defensive end Antwan Odom in the first quarter. The injury would force Schaub to the sidelines for the rest of the year.
Rosenfels took over in that game but could not get anything together, going 17-of-30 with 185 passing yards.
"You never want to see a teammate, much less a fellow quarterback, go down," Rosenfels said. "It's not a good feeling. It wasn't a good feeling the last time we played them. It wasn't a good feeling this time."
Feel-good endingWith Schaub out for the season, Rosenfels moved into his role as starter. In Week 13 against Tampa Bay, Ronsefels helped get the offense back on track, notching 209 yards, three touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 116.6.
"He's a gutsy player, and I told him last night in front of his teammates," Kubiak said after the game. "Sage has the desire and the goal to be a starter in this league. He and I talked about that last offseason when we acquired Matt. I told him, 'You'll get an opportunity.' He's always taken advantage of his opportunities."
Rosenfels capitalized on his next opportunity against the Denver Broncos, becoming the first Texans quarterback to go 3-0 as a starter. In the Texans' 28-14 win, he threw for 200 yards and one touchdown and rushed for another.
The quarterback turned in a disappointing performance at Indianapolis, but ended the season on a feel-good note with the Texans beating Jacksonville 42-28 and going .500 for the first time in franchise history.
"For this organization, winning eight games is a big step," said Rosenfels, who threw for 128 yards and one touchdown.
"You have to take steps. We won six last year and eight this year. We were in some very tight ball games and some playoff-type atmospheres. We'll learn from those this year, and they'll help us next year."
The next step
Schaub recently had shoulder surgery and has begun rehabbing. He already is thinking about next season. The team plans to name him the starter and Ronsenfels his backup.
"I wish it (the 2008 season) started next week," Schaub said. "We're looking forward to this offseason. We finished on a great note, to take that step to finish 8-8 for this franchise and next year we can look forward to winning more ball games."
Kubiak would like both Ronsenfels and Schaub to start by better protecting the football. The quarterbacks accounted for 27 of the team's 38 turnovers this season.
"We threw the ball a great deal," Kubiak said. "I think we threw the football for almost 1,100 more yards then we did last year. That's a good thing, but that also means that we were throwing it a lot. I think we can cut down turnovers just by the type of team we have if we're running the ball better.
"There's no secret to it. It's just looking at facing the facts and moving forward. We'll do that, and that'll have to start in day one of the offseason program. It can't wait until we start playing again."