---- — FOXBORO — Earlier this week, Houston wideout Andre Johnson — known for his hyperbolic penchant called Monday night’s Gillette Stadium collision with the Patriots the biggest game in Texans’ franchise history.
Matt Schaub had to cringe when he heard those words. So much individually rides on the game for Schaub. Toss the weight of the franchise on his shoulders, and shouldn’t we be prepping for a colossal Schaub crumble?
Win or lose tomorrow, Houston survives and remains on track for the AFC’s top playoff seed.
But Schaub? Lay an egg with a sure-fire record national TV audience watching? Talk about a direct drop from the penthouse to the outhouse.
For Schaub’s sake, he and the Texans’ offense had better deliver a monster.
A career 64.3 percent passer, who is 18-4 in his last 22 starts with a 95.5 passer efficiency rating, Schaub remains on the outside looking in when it comes to the NFL’s top guns.
Tom Brady, the Mannings, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers occupy the luxury boxes.
Schaub’s not sitting in the last row of the bleachers with Mark Sanchez, but he’s still waiting for the call to get out of the cold and sip some Moet with the blue-chippers.
“I don’t even spend one second thinking about it,” said Schaub about what a special showing against Brady and the Pats would do for his league-wide status. “To me it’s about winning football games for this team, getting into the postseason and winning a championship. All that other stuff will take care of itself after that.”
Schaub may not be thinking about it, but America, as a football nation, certainly is. A year ago, he was in a position similar to this, only to have his foot smooshed when Albert Haynesworth belly-flopped on it in Week 11.
The Texans were the talk of the game with weapons galore. Schaub was about to elevate himself and his status. Undeterred, he picked up this year, right where he left off in 2011.
Clearly, Houston feels like Schaub has already arrived.
“I’ve been telling people all season, (Schaub) has a different look in his eye,” said Johnson.
“It’s just some of the things that he went through last year battling through the injuries and stuff like that. It just lets you know you never know when it’ll be your last play out there on the field. You just can’t take anything for granted. He’s here. He’ll be ready to go Monday night. I’m sure he’ll definitely have that look in his eyes. He’s been having it all year.”
Clicking on 64.4 percent of his passes at a 7.4-yards/attempt clip with 21 TD passes and 9 picks, Schaub is certainly injecting himself into the “franchise QB” conversation.
Against the true studs, though, he’s a mere 1-1 this year, with Brady stepping up front-and-center. He slapped a 31-25 defeat on Peyton and the Broncos in Week 3, only to be engulfed by Rodgers and Green Bay three weeks later in a 42-24 lambasting.
Brady offers a chance to take the 3-game set with the blue-chippers, and in the process all but lock up the top seed in the AFC with three more to play.
“It’s the ultimate respect when your teammates or other plays in the NFL when they think of you that way. It’s awesome,” said Schaub. “It’s great to know that and have that feeling amongst your teammates and your peers. Our whole focus, mine and everyone in that locker room is just to find a way to win.”
But victory comes with a hefty load of spoils laden on the Foxboro turf this week. So Schaub has added detail to the routine, for this week and beyond.
Bury the Pats and their band of mini, mediocre DBs, and you kick the door into the playoffs. Somebody other the the guys in your uniforms will begin to take heed of your existence.
Gary Kubiak would classify Schaub as ready, willing and able.
“When you’ve done what he’s done since he’s been with this organization, which is played very darn good and you have to sit and watch the last five weeks last year and watch two playoff games ... It was extremely difficult on him,” said the Coach, who stands at 58-50 career as a head coach. “He really cherishes every opportunity to play.”
Schaub is absolutely playing like it. But to be a man, you have to eliminate one man. And he gets to poke a fork in Brady and end any Pats’ dreams of the No. 1 seed, in the process if he gets things done.”
“This is when you want to be at your best and you want to be playing your best football,” said Schaub. “As a player, I want to be playing my best football too. I think everyone in that (Houston) locker room feels that way.”
But none of those 52 other Texans have so much to gain — or lose — like Schaub in the process.
Schaub vs. Best in 2012 Here's a look at Matt Schaub's numbers vs. the NFL's finest this season. Player, team W-L Comp Att Yds. TDs INTs Rating Aaron Rodgers, GB 8-4 279 414 3,129 29 8 105.0 Peyton Manning, Denver 10-3 330 483 3,812 30 10 104.0 Tom Brady, NE 9-3 298 460 3,537 25 4 102.6 Matt Schaub, Houston 11-1 266 413 3,062 21 9 94.5 Drew Brees, NO 5-7 304 492 3,674 31 16 92.1 Eli Manning, NY Giants 7-5 259 427 3,170 16 11 85.3