HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Texans entered this season with their sights on a Super Bowl.
A 2-5 record and a five-game losing streak have not only made a trip to the Super Bowl very unlikely, but has quarterback Matt Schaub’s job in jeopardy and raised questions about coach Gary Kubiak’s security.
And as the losses have piled up, so have the injuries; they’ll use their off week to regroup after losing star linebacker Brian Cushing to a season-ending injury for the second straight year.
A big reason for Houston’s downward spiral has been Schaub’s struggles. He’s thrown just eight touchdowns with nine interceptions—four of which have been returned for touchdowns. He was injured two weeks ago and missed Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs with injuries to his right foot and ankle. Case Keenum started in his place, and the second-year player performed well in his first NFL game before a late fumble sealed Kansas City’s 17-16 win.
Kubiak said Schaub is Houston’s quarterback when he’s healthy, but left the door open for Keenum to keep the job by saying that he was going to evaluate the position during the bye.
“That’s a difficult call, either way,” Kubiak said. “We have a couple of days to evaluate ourselves, evaluate our football team and see where we’re at, and then I will do what I think is best for the team.”
Houston made its first two playoff appearances in the last two seasons and was eliminated in the divisional round both years. With a defense featuring 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, and star running back Arian Foster leading the offense, it looked like the Texans were poised for a much deeper postseason run.
Instead they had to rally to win their first two games before losing the next five, including embarrassing, blowout losses to San Francisco and St. Louis.
“It’s not good. It’s not where we thought we’d be at this point,” receiver Andre Johnson said. “Expectation level is higher than it’s ever been. We never thought we’d be in this position at our bye week.”
The slump has put Kubiak on the hot seat. Will the eighth-year coach survive the season if Houston doesn’t turn it around?
Schaub’s turnover problems also have some concerned that Kubiak’s once-powerful offense has become predictable.
Johnson, the longest-tenured Texan after joining the team in 2003, was asked whether he worries that changes will have to be made if they don’t play better after the bye.
“Well, that’s part of the business,” he said. “I don’t control that part of it—who stays, who goes. You hate to see anybody get fired or lose their jobs, but at the same time that’s out of my control.”
He’s certainly disappointed the Texans aren’t living up to expectations, but he isn’t surprised the team is fielding questions about issues like coaching changes and quarterback controversies after such a poor start.
“If you don’t go out and play the way you are supposed to play, that’s what happens,” he said. “And we haven’t played the way we’ve needed to be playing, so that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in right now.”
Cushing’s injury is a major blow to a defense which is allowing the fewest yards in the NFL, but that has struggled to force turnovers or take over games.
“You need to stop the run and put teams in passing situations and get after the passer,” Watt said. “Takeaways are going to be huge momentum gainers and they’re going to be a big reason for your success.”
Safety Ed Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowler signed from Baltimore in the offseason, was supposed to give the unit a boost. But he hasn’t made much impact after missing all of training camp and the first two games after hip surgery.
His leadership could be even more important after the break as Houston relies on rookie D.J. Swearinger at the other safety position after a season-ending injury to Danieal Manning.
“I’m still able to do the things that I know I can do, that I’ve been doing,” Reed said. “It’s just a matter of getting opportunities and taking advantage of those opportunities.”
Houston is also facing issues at running back with Foster dealing with a hamstring injury and Ben Tate nursing four broken ribs. Both have said they’ll be ready to go after the bye. If they aren’t the Texans could be a jam after Kubiak cut three rookies, including third-string running back Cierre Wood for violating team rules on Monday.
The Texans are in third place in the AFC South and host division leader Indianapolis in a Sunday night game on Nov. 3.
“I have no doubt that we can turn it around,” Johnson said. “But if we don’t play the way we’re supposed to play, things are not going to change.”