FOXBOROUGH — Even though it seemed like Rob Ninkovich had somehow grown out of the Gillette Stadium turf, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub said he saw him the whole time.
He just thought he could make the throw.
He had James Casey seemingly by himself over the middle, and fired it to him, but Ninkovich cut the throw off in the middle.
Of the 51 passes Schaub threw in Sunday’s 41-28 loss to the Patriots, it was his only interception. But it was costly.
Six plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone. A 5-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Brandon Lloyd made it 31-13. Schaub knew the mistake was costly.
“When they ultimately get the ball, that’s definitely an, ‘Oh no,’ moment,’ ” Schaub said. “You want to get your guy a chance to make a play.”
Coming in, Texans coach Gary Kubiak knew the game would come down to the quarterbacks. Schaub had just played in his first postseason game a week ago, and was walking into Gillette Stadium never having seen playoff football on the road. Brady was a win away from passing Joe Montana for most playoff wins by a quarterback.
“You’ve got to come in here and play great,” Kubiak said.
Schaub completed 34 of 51 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns, but he left plays on the field when the Texans couldn’t afford to. The most glaring was the overthrown pass in the end zone from 9 yards out that missed a wide-open Andre Johnson and squandered a 94-yard return by Danieal Manning on the opening kickoff.
Schaub missed out on the postseason last year with a Lisfranc injury, but this season he said he knew he looked at all the quarterbacks on playoff teams and felt he deserved to be in their company.
“There is no doubt that I belong,” he said. “I think I belong right up there with every one of them.”
Kubiak said he still confident in the quarterback.
“This guy’s won a lot of football games,” Kubiak said. “So if you’re asking about our quarterback, I’ve got a ton of confidence in him. I think he’s one of the top quarterbacks in football. He’s had his team in great position for the last two years. He was a big part of last year.
“You don’t get over that hump unless you’re willing to keep going back there and keep putting yourself in that position. It’s very, very difficult. I do not take anything for granted, where we are tonight. Because it’s hard to get there. But I believe in our quarterback wholeheartedly, and my point is that we are going to continue to push him to a new level as a player. And that’s all of us. He’s definitely the one leading the way.”
Controversy wiped away
Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt shot down the pregame buzz that he walked to midfield and spit on the Patriots’ logo during warm-ups.
“I do that every game, home or away,” he said. “I go out to midfield, I jog out there, spit a little bit, wipe my feet off, then go through my stretches. No drama there, that’s 100 percent what I do every game, home or away.”
Watt finished with four tackles and a half-sack.
As he wrapped up a postgame interview near the team bus, Arian Foster was told by a member of the Texans staff that someone special wanted to see him. He turned, and it was Robert Kraft. They shook hands, exchanged compliments.
“My man,” Foster said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for what you do.”
Foster, who was held to 90 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, was short for words after the loss.
“We know what we have to do,” Foster said. “It’s not like we went out there and had no clue what they were going to do. They made plays and we didn’t. That’s how you win in these games. It’s not any magic. You’ve got to go out there and make plays.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.