We’ll find out this week if Texans coach Gary Kubiak is being loyal, or stubborn.
It might not matter which, because the bottom line is a third straight loss and a 2-3 record for a team which entered the season with high hopes.
Kubiak stayed with quarterback Matt Schaub long enough for Schaub to go a fourth straight game with an interception returned for a touchdown. The late hook in favor of T.J. Yates could have been a temporary move during a 34-3 loss to the 49ers, but it might be time for a new direction Kubiak has been thus far unwilling to take.
Schaub was picked off twice in the first half, but Kubiak didn’t flinch, sending him right back out for more punishment in the second.
Schaub finished 19-of-35 passing for 173 yards and three interceptions, a rating of 32.2. (You get a 39.6 for throwing one incomplete pass).
Perhaps a signal of their lack of confidence, the Texans had no downfield element to their offense, and without that, not much of a chance after getting in an early hole.
Now, they have to decide how to proceed.
They go home to play the Rams next week, followed by a trip to undefeated Kansas City before a bye week. Both of the next two opponents can get to the quarterback, which will make it hard for Schaub to bounce back.
But doubt — Schaub in himself, and teammates in him — might be harder to overcome.
At some point, Kubiak has to figure out not whether Schaub is his best chance to win right now (as opposed to going to Yates full time), but whether he ever can be again. At the moment, Schaub simply looks lost, and the coach might not be doing anyone any favors by sticking with him.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. It’s hard to offer a true verdict on the 49ers offense, because between the turnovers and the short fields, they didn’t have to do too much.
But accepting gifts is only going to get them so far.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was 6-of-15 passing for 113 yards. If you think that’s bad, consider 64 of those yards came on a late strike to Vernon Davis when the game was well in hand.
We knew they lacked outside weapons in the absence of Michael Crabtree, but Kaepernick isn’t finding the inside ones at the moment either.
He’s going to have to progress in the passing game. For all the attention his running ability got during last year’s Super Bowl run, it was his ability to move the ball downfield with his arm that opened things up for the 49ers.
2. There were things that were not Schaub’s fault for the Texans.
Kicker Randy Bullock missed a 45-yard field goal early. Right tackle Derek Newton was replaced in the second quarter by Ryan Harris.
But it’s easier to put it all on the quarterback.
Schaub, Schaub, Schaub.
3. Speaking of things that don’t appear to be working out at the moment, the Texans spent a lot of money on veteran safety Ed Reed this offseason.
He was on and off the field, spending time with trainers at one point. The good news is that those visits allowed you to notice he was in the building. Other than getting pushed backward by Frank Gore or chasing Davis helplessly, it was hard to recognize his presence at all.
4. Tramaine Brock took over as the 49ers third cornerback Sunday for a sore-kneed Nnamdi Asomugha.
There’s no indication he should be giving the job back anytime soon.
Brock had the job prior to a minor injury in camp, but at this point, it’s hard to see them going back to an older player, who is also in a contract year.
Making him compete seems to have brought the best out in Brock, who is also positioning himself for a bigger deal from someone this offseason.
5. The news wasn’t all good for the 49ers.
Defensive end Ray McDonald left the game with a biceps injury and did not return. That left them thin up front, with just three healthy linemen to finish the game.
They lost nose tackle Ian Williams for the season to a broken ankle earlier this year, and without the rehabbing Aldon Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis inactive Sunday, it was a paper-thin front seven.
Fortunately, they didn’t have to be perfect.
Schaub, Schaub, Schaub.