Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the Atlanta Falcons faced the tough questions following a Super Bowl collapse for the ages. The defense wore down late, but blame will rest on the offense for the rest of time. There were issues with execution, but the now former Falcons offensive coordinator is bearing the brunt of it.
After the game, various Falcons writers were able to get quotations from Shanahan discussing the decision-making in the game plan. ESPN Falcons writer Vaughn McClure had two strong articles about Shanahan (link 1, link 2), and Broncos writer Mike Klis had some interesting comments as well.
On the lack of running while in FG range late (from McClure):
"The thought is to get as many yards as you can,'' Shanahan said of not running while in field goal range. "And we were right there on the fringe. It was by no means an easy field goal. From what I remember, we ran in on first-and-10 and lost yards. Got into second-and-11, so we try to get a pass to get us back into a manageable third down, closer to the field goal, and we took a sack. Taking a sack ... got us into a third-and-20, so we threw a quick pass trying to get back into field goal range, which we did. But there was a holding call on the play. And when you get a holding call on third-and-20, it goes back that far. We were way out of field goal range. We tried our best to get back in but couldn't get it done.''
49ers fans and Seahawks fans know all too well what it is like to see your team in a perfect running situation and then not run the ball. This led to some comments in Klis’ article about being aggressive. Shanahan talked about the fine line, and the woulda/coulda/shoulda of it all.
“There’s always a fine line with it,’’ Shanahan said. “I thought we got a little bit stale a little bit. We got a couple three-and-outs. We got a couple second-and-1s on those three-and-outs.’’
Lose a game like that and there will be second guessing until the history books are lost in the archives.
“That’s every game,’’ Shanahan said. “You look at everything. Look at what happened, look at what you could have done different. Wish we could have ran more plays, but … you give the ball back to Tom Brady too much, that’s usually what happens.’’
Those final drives will be played over and over again in the coming months of the offseason. And I can guarantee you Kyle Shanahan will get questions about the play-calling when he mets the 49ers media later this week. The Falcons had the Lombardi Trophy in their grasp, and they stumbled at the worst possible time.
Shanahan is not the first and won’t be the last coordinator to blow some of the play-calling in the Super Bowl, although I doubt it will ever be quite this bad. Given how bad things went, I’d like to hope Shanahan learns a lesson from this. We’ll likely learn specifics on who will handle play-calling during Shanahan’s first press conference, but it is safe to say he will be actively involved. If he can learn from this brutal loss, it could leave him for the better as a coach.