FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub can help pull the offense out of its play-calling rut.
Schaub, 35, spent significant time with former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He knows the intricacies of the offense as much as anyone in the league. He should be a resource for new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
Shanahan, who helped the Falcons to offensive heights last season, was Schaub’s position coach in 2007 and his offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009 with the Texans before leaving to join his father’s staff with the Redskins. Schaub also spent seven years (2007-13) working under head coach Gary Kubiak, who runs the same offense.
Schaub, 36, who was selected by the Falcons in the third round (90th overall) of the 2004 draft, has played in 145 games and made 92 starts in his NFL career. The former Virginia star has posted a 47-45 record as a starter. If the Falcons held on to him for another month, he would have remained with the team as the Michael Vick dog-fighting case unfolded. But as fate had it, he was traded.
After playing seven seasons with the Texans, he played a season with the Raiders and was with the Ravens where he was 1-1 over two starts in 2015. He returned to the Falcons last season and appeared in five games, completing 1 of 3 passes in mop-up duty.
Schaub has some thoughts on how to get the offense rolling again.
“I think it’s just a focus on the fundamentals and the details of what we’re trying to get done,” said Schaub, who had stars in running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson in Houston. “Just from an execution standpoint, there are plays to be made.”
The Falcons went 90 minutes and 21 seconds without scoring over their previous two games, losses to the Dolphins and Patriots. This after leading the league in scoring offense last season.
“We just have to find a way collectively as a unit, focus on the details and fundamentals of what we are trying to get done,” Schaub said.
The offense is built around the outside-zone running attack and Sarkisian needs to stay with those runs longer in order to set up everything else.
“The run game is first and foremost,” Schaub said. “That’s what we want to do. That’s the style that we want to run, play-action and those type of things. We’ve had it going.”
Now, the Falcons are searching to get the offense back on track after they ended the scoring drought with a garbage-time touchdown with just over four minutes to play against the Patriots.
“There was a certain point in the game that we were in it (against the Patriots), (and we were down) multiple scores in the fourth quarter. You’ve got to find a way to throw it to get back in. You can’t stick to what your plan was going in. You have to adapt, adjust to the flow of the game.”
Starting quarterback Matt Ryan and Schaub confirmed that the Falcons have power formation plays in the playbook. However, Sarkisian, like Shanahan did in Super Bowl LI, doesn’t call them in short-yardage situations. Consider: Jet sweep on fourth-and-1 against Patriots. Toss sweep on third-and-1 against the Dolphins. Passes on third- and fourth-and-1 against the Bills.
The Falcons knew — or had to suspect — that Sarkisian was going to need some help calling plays in the system that remained largely intact from the one left by Shanahan. He hadn’t been in the NFL since he was the quarterbacks coach for the Raiders in 2004.
Schaub believes relying on practice will help the team get back on track. Extra red zone and third down periods have been added this week.
“I think we just get back on the practice field and focus on this week’s game plan,” Schaub said. “What’s done is done and it’s in the past. We can’t change. We can’t modify it.
“We can only control today and how were going to prepare for the Jets. As long as we focus on our technique and practice and (know) how we want to play these guys, how we want to attack these guys and it will come to fruition on Sunday.
Practice is where the team must focus.
“If we don’t have good practice and our minds are somewhere, we are not going to play well,” Schaub said. “But if you practice well, you give yourself a chance to play well. That’s what our mindset needs to me. Just go out and focus on the details of our work.”