Schaub made surprise splash vs. Patriots in '05


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.

Celtics-Bulls preview: C's quickly turn page to new-look Bulls


Celtics-Bulls preview: C's quickly turn page to new-look Bulls

BOSTON – Change is an inevitable when it comes to NBA rosters.

Just as the Boston Celtics significantly altered the outlook many had for them this season by signing Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, they face a Chicago Bulls team tonight that has also undergone significant change.

The Bulls traded away one favorite son (Derrick Rose) and went about adding another in Dwyane Wade.

In addition to Wade, Chicago also signed former Celtic All-Star Rajon Rondo to join a team headlined by All-Star guard Jimmy Butler.

As easy as it could have been to worry about the struggles they had in disposing of the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, the Celtics knew they had to immediately turn the page and shift their focus towards a Chicago Bulls team that’s looking to start its season with a quality win over the Celtics.

“They’re a good team. They have great players over there,” said Jae Crowder. “They’re trying to figure it out. They’re going to be very excited to play of course. We have to take care of business, play the way we want to play and impose our will even more.”

One of the keys to knocking off the Bulls will be to get better play from their second unit.

Boston’s backups were outscored 58-40 but more significant than that was their inability to hold off the late-charging Nets which forced head coach Brad Stevens to bring his starters back on to the floor with about two minutes to play.

Among the reasons contributing to the bench’s ineffective play on Wednesday was the fact that Marcus Smart (left ankle sprain) was out.

Remember, Smart has been with the second unit for all of training camp minus the second half of their 121-96 preseason loss to the New York Knicks.

Crowder believes not having Smart, who will be out for another week or so, was indeed a factor in the second unit’s struggles.

“They trying to figure it out on the fly,” Crowder said. “With a few days of practice and probably one tough day of practice without him. It’s tough but they’re figuring it out. There’s no other way to figure it out but in a game. They’ll figure it out as soon as possible.”

Ortiz wins Hank Aaron Award as top hitter in American League


Ortiz wins Hank Aaron Award as top hitter in American League

CLEVELAND -- David Ortiz is heading into retirement with some more hardware.

The Boston Red Sox slugger captured the Hank Aaron Award on Wednesday as the top hitter in the American League this season. Budding Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant was honored as the top hitter in the National League.

The award was presented before Game 2 of the World Series between the Cubs and Cleveland. It was determined through a combination of fan voting and a panel that includes Aaron and other Hall of Fame players.

The 40-year-old Ortiz hit .315 with 38 home runs, 127 RBIs and 48 doubles in the 20th and final season of his major league career. His 541 career home runs rank 17th all-time.

The 24-year-old Bryant hit .292 with 39 home runs and 102 RBIs while helping the Cubs cruise to the NL Central title and eventually a spot in the World Series. Shortly after being honored, Bryant singled in the first inning for his first Series hit.