Celtics

Schaub made surprise splash vs. Patriots in '05

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Schaub made surprise splash vs. Patriots in '05

All week long, the Atlanta Falcons played a quarterback shell game leading into their October 9 matchup with the Patriots seven years ago.

Michael Vick's right knee was acting up, but Falcons coach Jim Mora Jr., knew the advantage of keeping Vick's availability under wraps.

Vick couldn't have been any more different in style from his backup, second-year player Matt Schaub. Vick lived on elusiveness; Schaub was a pocket passer.

Even though Vick didn't practice all week, he was listed as probable. On Saturday, he was downgraded to questionable. On Sunday, he watched from the sidelines wearing a sweatshirt and visor.

The Patriots, dealing with an avalanche of injuries in their secondary, were stressed preparing for both styles. And they didn't have a ton of film on Schaub.

At that point, Schaub had barely played in any games. As a rookie out of Virginia in 2004, he played extensively in two games when Vick was hurt and saw mop-up duty in three others. He'd thrown a touchdown and four picks.

Meanwhile, the Patriots were coming off a 41-17 pummeling at home at the hands of the San Diego Chargers. The gloating from the Chargers after snapping the Patriots 21-game home winning streak was sharp. "That's an ass-whupping right there," said Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

When Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer diplomatically tried to say the Patriots weren't themselves that day because of all the injuries they had -- Rodney Harrison, for one, was lost for the season -- Tom Brady said that Schottenheimer should worry about his own team.

"You don't talk about our team," Brady said on the Wednesday before the Falcons game. "He has no business talking about our team. He's not our coach. We'll let our coach talk about our team. We'll let our players talk about our team. The only thing we ever do is give respect to the other teams because that's what they deserve. They played a good game. They beat us. That's what it is -- no more, no less -- it's one game."

It was classic, circle-the-wagons exhibition by Brady. For a team that had won two straight Super Bowls, keeping its edge by finding slights was a common pursuit. And the Patriots had found one heading to Atlanta.

But that didn't stop Schaub from going out that Sunday and earning himself a lot of money. Throwing against a secondary populated by the likes of Guss Scott, Duane Starks, and Michael Stone, Schaub went 18-for-34 for 298 yards and three touchdowns. The Patriots pulled out a 31-28 win as Tom Brady went off (22-for-27 for 350 and three TDs).

"He wasn't ready to play," Mora said of Vick. "It was an easy decision. When a player is not ready to play, you are not going to put him out there in harm's way. This team felt confident we could perform with Matt Schaub, and I think we proved that to be true."

In the end, sitting Vick was the best thing that could have happened for Schaub. At that point, the Patriots were the NFL's marquee team by a lot. And even though the Patriots were shorthanded, the attention Schaub garnered by playing well that day helped his stock rise significantly.

Schaub's usage was minimal during the rest of his time in Atlanta, but when he became a restricted free agent in 2007, the Texans -- who had grown weary of starter David Carr -- swung a deal for Schaub and made him their quarterback.

Now, five years down the line, Schaub will be facing the franchise that he got his big break against as he brings the 11-1 Texans into Foxboro.

Funny how things work out.

Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”