FedEx Field was closing in around the Texans. Trailing by 17 with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter on Sunday, Houston had a 24-yard completion to Andre Johnson negated, then saw Matt Schaub sacked on the next play, setting up third-and-15 from the Texans' 44-yard line.
A stadium that shook with elation during the Redskins' emotional win over Dallas a week earlier now shimmied with the anticipation of a 2--0 start—the franchise's first since 2007—under new coach Mike Shanahan. But on consecutive plays Schaub found running back Arian Foster for a 50-yard catch-and-run, then located Kevin Walter for a six-yard touchdown that jump-started a Houston comeback. The Texans scored 20 unanswered points and won 30--27 in overtime.
Afterward coach Gary Kubiak marveled at his QB's composure. "It's tough to win if your [quarterback's] emotions are all over the place," Kubiak said. "Our team is always looking to that player to lead us. If you get sacked and you're rolling around on the ground, or your head is down, they see that. And when you're upbeat, they see that they're still in the ball game."
The subject of body language has been a hot topic in the first weeks of the NFL season. In Week 1 second-year Jets pro Mark Sanchez looked like a guy who had lost his puppy while throwing for 74 yards in a 10--9 loss to Baltimore, and Pro Bowler Philip Rivers spent part of the Chargers' 21--14 loss to the Chiefs in hostile Arrowhead Stadium barking at teammates and even kicking away a football during a stop in play.
Both displays lit up talk-radio phone lines and created crowds around the watercooler. Beyond the discussion of whether one was a "baby" and the other a "jerk," there was the larger issue of how a quarterback's demeanor affects his ability to lead his teammates. "There is something called isopraxism, which is an anthropological explanation of how we pull toward the same energy," says Patti Wood, a body-language expert who taught a course in the subject at Florida State and has written seven books on communication. "It explains why when the person we're with steps off the curb, we follow him or her into the crosswalk. In team sports it explains how if one person, especially the leader, gets discouraged or feels defeated, the entire group is affected."
Sanchez rebounded with a bold and engaged performance on Sunday, setting personal highs for completions (21) and touchdown passes (three) in a 28--14 victory over the Patriots.
"Body language is huge," says Schaub, who threw for 287 of his 497 yards during the Texans' rally on Sunday. "It's the negative things you have to eliminate—the slumping of the shoulders, the look in your eyes that says, Gosh, what do I do? You've got to be able to move on from that or you're not going to be able to lead your guys in the right direction."
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SIMON BRUTY (SCHAUB)
DON'T MESS With this Texan; Schaub (8) was not the lone star, just the biggest one, throwing for 497 yards in a stirring comeback.