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'Tough-guy' QB Schaub emerges for Texans

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HOUSTON (AP)

Matt Schaub found the rest of his left ear.

''It's been recovered,'' Schaub said Wednesday.

The Houston Texans quarterback took one for the team in Denver over the weekend, losing a chunk of his ear on a big hit by linebacker Joe Mays.

He also tied his career high with four touchdown passes, outplaying Peyton Manning in a 31-25 victory.

Schaub's coaches and teammates have known all along that he's tough. Now, Schaub has a validating moment, skipping only one snap after Mays' violent, helmet-first hit, and then leading his team to a hard-fought road victory.

''I haven't given much attention or thought to it, where other people might,'' Schaub said. ''Me, I'm just excited that we won the other day, and looking to move on to our fourth game.''

Houston (3-0) plays the Titans (1-2) on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner says Schaub proved his mettle by returning to the game so quickly after the hit.

''It shows that he's the leader of that team,'' Verner said. ''He knew if he showed weakness, then people might give in and that game ended up being close toward the end, too. He showed the toughness that probably pushed his team through to get that win.''

The Texans are unbeaten in Schaub's past seven starts, going back to a 41-7 win at Tennessee last October.

Schaub did his usual Monday work and practiced on Wednesday, wearing only a simple bandage over the grisly injury. He says it won't bother him at all this weekend.

''He's a strong guy, he's our leader,'' said receiver Kevin Walter, who caught a 52-yard TD pass from Schaub before the hard hit. ''He's a tough guy, and that's what he's all about. I always knew Matt was a tough guy, I've seen him get hit plenty of times and come back and play.''

Only last season, though, the old questions emerged about Schaub's durability when he fractured his right Lisfranc joint in Week 10 last year and missed the rest of the season.

The Texans were 7-3 at the time, finished 10-6 and won their division for their first playoff appearance.

Schaub's foot was fully healed by the time training camp started and he looked as sharp as ever in Houston's third preseason game, completing 15 of 18 passes against New Orleans.

He hasn't needed to put up staggering numbers in Houston's first three games because it hasn't been necessary - the Texans were fueled by four turnovers in a 30-10 rout of Miami and they rushed for 216 yards in an easy 27-7 win over Jacksonville.

The Broncos dared Schaub to throw deep and he did, finding Andre Johnson and Walter for touchdown passes covering more than 50 yards.

Schaub completed 17 of 30 passes for a modest season-high 290 yards against Denver. He also threw his first interception of the season and only the second in those past seven starts.

''Last week was as good as he's played this year,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ''The thing about our team offensively, we're built a little bit differently than some teams. There are times where we'll go out there and may not ask Matt to throw it 22 or 23 times in the course of a game. Or we may need him to throw it 45 times for us to win. I don't know when those days are going to be, but he's handled himself very well.

''He's thrown for a percentage when somebody played him a certain way, and then he made big plays when somebody played him a different way last week,'' Kubiak said. ''Matt's on his way, practicing very well.''

Notes: Kubiak said cornerback Johnathan Joseph sat out Wednesday's practice with a groin injury. ... WR Andre Johnson and RB Arian Foster only participated in part of practice, but Kubiak said that was just to get them some extra rest. Both will play on Sunday. ''A lot of guys have played a lot of snaps,'' Kubiak said. ''I would expect them to be full-go (Thursday) and be ready to go.'' ... WR Lestar Jean had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Tuesday and Kubiak is hoping he could be back in two weeks. S Quintin Demps sat out Wednesday's practice and had a cast placed on his injured right thumb. ... Kubiak will coach his 100th regular-season game on Sunday.

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AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker contributed from Nashville, Tenn.

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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Broncos, Texans, Matt Schaub, Titans, Andre Johnson

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