GREEN BAY, Wis. - Matt Schaub certainly didn't look like a guy whose knee wasn't healthy enough for him to play just six days ago.

The quarterback from West Chester East returned from a four-game absence to throw for a career-high 414 yards in the Houston Texans' 24-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field yesterday. He also led a final drive to set up Kris Brown's 40-yard field goal on the last play of the game.

Schaub's knee even held up under the intense celebration afterward.

"Kris jumped on me and just held on and I said, 'Come on, we've got more guys to celebrate with,' " Schaub said. "It was just excitement, one of those team wins. You just want to go around and give everyone a hug."

After sitting out the Texans' (6-8) victory over Jacksonville on Monday, Schaub returned yesterday to play with a brace on his left knee - but his mobility certainly didn't suffer. He made big plays on rollouts and bootlegs all afternoon, completing passes to eight receivers.

Of course, it's possible that the 3-degree temperature at kickoff might have numbed Schaub's knee to the point where he couldn't feel it.

"All in all, we hung with the cold weather good," said fullback Vonta Leach, a former Packers player who had a key reception on the final drive. "We came down here, put up a lot of yards and a lot of points."

And how: The Texans racked up 549 yards of total offense.

The loss, Green Bay's third straight, makes it highly unlikely the Packers (5-8) will be back in the playoffs this year, even in the mediocre NFC North. And it came in strikingly similar fashion to the Nov. 30 late-game giveaway to Carolina at Lambeau.

"The big play's kind of something that's been lingering of late," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

It was Green Bay's fifth loss by four points or fewer this season.

"The frustrating part is, it's been right there in front of us," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We've had the opportunity to execute and finish those games off and we haven't."

The Texans won despite committing four turnovers, perhaps the byproduct of a warm-weather team playing in just-above-zero conditions.

"Our group had every reason at some point to fold with the turnovers hurting us," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "But this group is made of a lot of character and it's as good a win as I've ever been around."

Texans rookie running back Steve Slaton, a graduate of Conwell-Egan, rushed for 120 yards and caught three passes for 40 yards, as he built on his 130-yard, two-touchdown performance against Jacksonville.

Of note. Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher sustained what his coach called a "significant" knee injury.