HOUSTON — David Carr was sacked an NFL record 76 times in 2002, the Houston Texans’ inaugural season. Three years later, he went down behind the line 68 times, third-most in league history.
The Texans would love to put that issue to rest — and they have made significant upgrades in virtually every area since Carr was cut in 2007 — but protecting the quarterback is unfortunately back in the conversation.
Matt Schaub has been sacked 11 times in three games, tied with Philadelphia’s Michael Vick for the most this season. Only the Eagles have allowed more sacks than Houston (14), and Vick became the starter after Kevin Kolb left the first game with a concussion.
“We’ve got 11 sacks, way too damn many,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “I don’t care whose fault it is — mine, Matt’s, the O-line. We’ve got to fix it. We’ve got way too many.”
The Texans (2-1) play at Oakland (1-2) this week. The Raiders rank second in total defense (260.7 yards per game) and have seven sacks in their first three games.
Kubiak doesn’t have a Vick as his No. 2 quarterback. He’s got Dan Orlovsky as the backup, but he may need to go to him if Schaub keeps getting hit like this.
He was sacked five times in the Texans 30-27 win over Washington two weeks ago, and took another hard shot after throwing a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Andre Johnson. Schaub was sacked four more times in Sunday’s 27-13 loss to Dallas, three times by DeMarcus Ware. Keith Brooking had the other one, charging in unblocked to hammer Schaub on a third-down play from the Cowboys’ 3-yard line.
“It’s frustrating as an offensive line,” center Chris Myers said. “You take pride in not having that many sacks and when you’re close to last in the league in giving up sacks, it’s really embarrassing. We’ve got to take it upon ourselves, take pride in that and get better.”
The offensive front faced Dallas without starting left tackle Duane Brown, who was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on banned substances. Five-year veteran Rashad Butler made his first career start in Brown’s place, and let Ware get by him on one of the sacks.
Right tackle Eric Winston isn’t making excuses. No matter who is starting, Winston said the line needs to hold up.
“It doesn’t matter if he holds it for 15 seconds back there if he wants,” Winston said. “We have to stay on them and somehow get them blocked and that’s just what we’re going to keep doing.”
Kubiak said the entire offense, not just the line, shares blame for the protection breakdowns. Schaub said he’s at fault for some of them, holding onto the ball longer than the blocking could last.
“There’s a few times where I could’ve thrown the ball away or gotten rid of it, just trying to extend plays,” Schaub said. “We’re getting it right, we’re going to be fine. It’s not a big deal. We’re going to get it right.”
Schaub was only sacked twice in Houston’s opening win against Indianapolis. But he only attempted 17 passes because the Texans ran so effectively, rushing 42 times for 257 yards.
Schaub has thrown 84 passes in two games since, and Johnson said Houston’s receivers must take pressure off Schaub by running sharper routes.
“We just have to try to work ourselves open a little but more quickly than we’ve been doing,” Johnson said. “You definitely don’t like to see him get hit. It pretty much takes a toll on the body.”
Schaub can attest to that. He missed five games in 2007 with a shoulder injury and concussion, and four more in 2008 with a knee injury. Schaub started all 16 games last season, and the Texans finished with the NFL’s top passing offense (291 yards per game).
“The thing we were able to do last year was keep him healthy,” Johnson said. “That’s something we’re going to have to continue to do. When he’s healthy, he goes out and plays great.”