Matt Schaub will be making his first appearance in Foxboro when he takes the field Monday night for the Texans. The quarterback, who came into the league in 2004 out of Virginia, was predominantly a backup for his first seasons in the league as a member of the Falcons (he occasionally appeared in relief of then-starter Michael Vick ). He moved on to become the starter with the Texans in 2007, but never had a chance to play at Gillette Stadium  until now.
“When you go somewhere new, you get out there and you want to just check out how the field is and throw the ball around with your guys — just getting a feel for the depth and just for where everything is ‘ where they play clock is, where the game clock is,” Schaub said on a conference call with New England reporters on Thursday afternoon.
“Just get a feel for your surroundings and everything like that. Bu then as far as football, once the game starts, it’s just playing the game between the lines. We play in some hostile, tough places so this won’t be any different for us. But, definitely take a little bit of time to recognize where everything is on the field.”
Schaub’s first appearance in Foxboro certainly won’t lack for import: He’ll lead an 11-1 Houston team into Foxboro against the 9-3 Patriots on a Monday night stage. With a win, the Texans can inch closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field throughout the postseason.
“I think it’s a big game for us,” Schaub said. “It’s a big game in the month of December as we get into the home stretch here heading into January. It’s a big game on the road, a tough test against a very good football team. We’re excited for the opportunity to go on and play our best football.”
Schaub has been impressed with the work of the New England defense, saying it’s a unit that “can do a little bit of everything.”
“They’re a very physical, stout group,” he said. “They understand their scheme well; a lot of veteran guys that have played a lot of football in that group. They can rush the passer, they can stop the run. They can do a little bit of everything. It’s a group that we really have to be on top of our game plan, on top of our stuff and play good road football.”
That includes steering clear of turnovers — the Patriots are +24 in takeaways, the best total in the league.
“They’re very aware of the football and trying to strip it, whether it be the runners or receivers with the ball or the quarterback in the pocket,” Schaub said. “Their secondary, they’re very well coached as far as patterns and recognizing routes and being able to get their hands on the football as well as some tipped balls which, we have a lot of those for our defense as well. The defensive line and the front for New England, they do a great job of trying to get their hands up if they can and tip some balls to defenders.”
Here are some more highlights of his Q&A:
For your offense, how would you characterize where you are right now offensively in terms of balancing the run and the pass?
“It’s something that we’ve prided ourselves on now for a few years ‘ be a balanced offense, both running the football and throwing it. Keeping defenses off balance with our run and pass, keeping our down and distances manageable where we can keep our playbook open to whatever we want to do. It’s been something that’s worked for us.”
How would you characterize the season Arian Foster is having this year? Is it different from other years?
“No, it’s been pretty much the same. He’s been a guy that’s been our workhorse. We’ve given him the ball quite a bit this year, especially in the beginning part of the season ‘ when we’ve had leads in the fourth quarter we just are using the clock and running the football. He’s touched the ball quite a bit. He just seems to always be patient and find the holes and working well with our offensive line. When we get in the red zone, he has a knack for finding the end zone.”
How about Andre Johnson ? It seems like he has shifted into another gear in the last month or so.
“I think when you look at his numbers and what he’s done, I mean he’s always been that type of guy that, just coming back from a couple little injuries he’s had over the last couple of years. I’ve said before you know, he’s really feeling like he’s hitting his stride and he really feels like he’s getting back to the Andre of old. I think you’ve seen it the past few weeks or months, some of the games that he’s had that were against Jacksonville and Detroit. He really is continuing to play at a very, very high level.”
“Yeah, well he’s a very talented player and he’s played a bunch of football. I think he understands their scheme pretty well. He’s a guy that comes in and brings some experience to that secondary and a guy that can play man coverage, play their zone coverages. He fits what they do well.”