THE New England Patriots completed the most improbable comeback in Super Bowl history to stun the Falcons, but according to Shannon Sharpe, Atlanta’s puzzling playcalling was as big a reason for the outcome as Tom Brady’s heroics.
Sharpe, who won three Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens, broke down the key decisions that led to the Falcons’ historic collapse on his show Undisputed — and laid the majority of the blame at the feet of offensive co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan was announced as the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers the day after the game. (Editor’s note: There is a fair bit of assumed NFL knowledge in this piece)
THE PATRIOTS WERE BRILLIANT, BUT THE FALCONS CHOKED
I believe two things can be true. The Patriots absolutely won this game. But the Falcons choked. There’s no way of getting around that.
When the Falcons got up 28-3, they ran the ball four times from that point on. Think about that. You’re up 28-3 and you have four rush attempts from that point on.
Even if you just run the ball every single down and punt the ball away I don’t believe the (Patriots) can catch you.
KYLE SHANAHAN DIDN’T HAVE TO PROVE HE’S A GENIUS
I’m thinking to myself ‘Kyle, what are you doing? You have a job secure. You don’t have to prove anything. You got a six-year deal that’s guaranteed. You showing how great of an offensive co-ordinator you are is not gonna change anything.’
It’s not like you can get an eight-year deal now. So there is nothing for you to prove.
FALCONS DIDN’T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF BELICHICK’S BAD ONSIDE KICK CALL
The Falcons had so many opportunities to put this game away. Coming out of the half, they got the ball. They didn’t do anything, they punted the football away. OK, now they get the ball back, they go up 28-3.
The Patriots get an opportunity, they score a touchdown. (Stephen) Gostkowski clangs it off the (upright). They onside kick. I wouldn’t have onsided, and I was thinking to myself ‘why would coach Belichick onside’ when he hadn’t been able to really stop the Falcons up until this point. They get this ball, they’re on a really short field.
I’m thinking ‘you get this ball, two first downs and you’re going to be attempting an under 40-yard field goal. So not only do you get the ball, you get an extra five yards because Gostkowski touched the football before it went the 10 yards.
FREEMAN BLEW HIS ASSIGNMENT TO ALLOW A GAME-CHANGINGSTRIP SACK
The strip sack. Coach Belichick says, ‘OK, do your job.’ Situational football. I want you to understand, Dont’a Hightower is a middle linebacker. He’s the mike linebacker. When he lines up on the edge, what do you think he’s going to do? He’s going to blitz! Devonta Freeman, that’s your guy! You know what he was thinking? ‘Get out to the pass route.’ That’s your guy. They offset you to make sure you can see him. He’s standing right there. All you have to do is hit him in his chest. If he runs over you, it’s going to take him too much time to get to Matt Ryan. You whiff? Ball out.
This is the mike linebacker. He normally lines up in the middle of the field. Why is he here? Maybe he’s going to wish me a happy birthday. Maybe he’s going to ask me how my family’s doing? No, he’s coming to hit your quarterback in the mouth! Do your job.
FALCONS BADLY MISMANAGED THE CLOCK
With five minutes left in the game, Matt Ryan’s running a play with 20 seconds on the clock. Does he realise that the clock is his ally, not his foe? Why would you run a play with 20 seconds on the clock?
You should not be snapping the ball with over five seconds on the clock. Five seconds, snap the ball. Why are you being so aggressive? If you look at the way they called this game once they got up 28-3, it was almost like they were down 28-3. They’re still in hurry-up.
GAME SHOULD HAVE BEEN OVER AFTER JULIO JONES’ CIRCUS CATCH
How about this. You get the ball, you get the big play from Devonta Freeman — Matt Ryan dumps the ball to Freeman, picks up 39 yards. Then you run the circus route by Julio (Jones). It’s first-and-10 at the 22.
You run the ball three times, you kick a field goal, you’re up two scores with under four minutes to play in the ball game.
And (they) did what? I don’t get it. What were you trying to accomplish, Kyle Shanahan? First of all, why would you not run the ball more when you’re up 28-3? Why would you not run the ball in that situation? Why would you put the ball in the air?
KYLE SHANAHAN DIDN’T NEED TO TRY AND VALIDATE MATT RYAN
I get Matt Ryan is the MVP. You don’t have to validate him. He’s already been validated the night before at the NFL Honours. The writers voted him MVP. You don’t need to validate him by letting him throw the football in this situation.
OK, negative play. You get the sack first. Even though Kyle Shanahan called this play — Matt Ryan, you’re nine years into the league. You’re an MVP, you know you can’t take a sack. So you go from first-and-10 on the 22 to sack, holding, punting the football. You had the ball on the 22-yard line and you’re punting from your own 45, so you lose 23 yards in two plays.
QUINN’S INFLEXIBILITY ON DEFENCE ALLOWED BRADY TO SHINE
Dan Quinn, I tweeted this in the ball game. I said ‘he’s doing the same thing when he was the defensive co-ordinator at Seattle, he’s doing that again in Atlanta.’ His head is hard. You hear Richard Sherman in the guys ‘well we don’t flip-flop, we play our defence.’ He’s saying ‘well this is what we do.’
They’re a Cover-1, safety in the middle of the field. I’ll bet you out of the snaps they played, I’ll bet you 95 per cent of those snaps was Cover-1 Robber or 22 Man.
How many times do you think Tom Brady needs to take a test when he knows the answers before he can ace it? If you line up in a formation, even the (most) basic of quarterbacks can pick you apart. And that’s all they were doing. Tom Brady was saying ‘you know what I can do?’ Josh McDaniels said ‘you know what I can do? I can run Edelman on the shallow cross, and I can get one-on-one back side. Either with (James) White, with my running back working on the safety or linebacker, or I can get (Danny) Amendola, (Malcom) Mitchell, or I can get Chris Hogan one-on-one with no interference. I just don’t get coach Quinn, why would you play the same defence when it cost you?