Kyle Shanahan’s Poor Play Calling Prime Reason Why The Falcons Collapsed In Super Bowl LI
Everything was going well for Kyle Shanahan. He was the offensive coordinator for the highest scoring team in all of the league and helped his Falcons squad win the NFC’s bid to Super Bowl LI. His offense was absolutely dominant through the playoffs scoring 36 and 44 points against the Seahawks and Packers respectively. Saturday night he was even named the 2016 AP Assistant Coach of the Year.
Then came the Super Bowl.
Everything seemed to be all good for the Falcons in the first half. Atlanta had a good mix of running plays and passing plays and both were proving to be quite successful. Even half way through the third quarter, things were looking good for Falcons to take home their first ever Super Bowl title.
With 8:31 left in the third quarter, the Falcons Tevin Coleman took a pass from quarterback Matt Ryan into the end zone to give the Falcons a 28-3 lead. From that point on, Atlanta was competing against the clock more so than competing against the Patriots, but no one gave that memo to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
From the time the Falcons took a 25 point lead until the Patriots completed an improbable comeback to tie the score, the Falcons ran a total of only 12 plays. Of those 12 plays, only four of them were running plays. With a lead in the Super Bowl, in what situation would it be ok for the Falcons to throw the ball in a 3:1 ratio to running the ball? The answer, as provided by the final outcome of the game, is none. If anything, the 3:1 ratio should have been in favor of the ground game over the pass.
— NFL (@NFL) February 6, 2017
Not only was the ratio far from where it should have been, the timing of when to dial-up a passing play was way off. With 8:31 remaining in the game, the Falcons were still boasting a 16 point lead and faced a third and one situation. Yes, just one yard. Atlanta’s backs combined to average 5.78 yards per carry in the game, and a third and one situation should have been an easy decision to pound the rock right up the gut. Instead, the Falcons lined up in shotgun formation, and Matt Ryan took a sack, fumbling the ball in the process, and making every person who has ever watched the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick led Patriots feel the Patriots were going to tie the game up.
Ladies and gentlemen, @JulioJones_11.
— NFL (@NFL) February 6, 2017
After the Patriots scored following the fumble and pulled to within one score, the Falcons once again had a chance to make it a two-score game. A long catch and run from running back Devonta Freeman followed by an absolutely incredible catch by receiver Julio Jones on the sideline set the Falcons up with a first down at the New England 22 with 4:40 left on the clock. From this point the proper move is to run the ball three straight times, either taking time off the clock or forcing the Patriots to burn their timeouts.
Instead Kyle Shanahan, who obviously didn’t learn his lesson on the last drive, dials up a shotgun formation pass that once again results in Matt Ryan taking a sack, moving the Falcons back to the New England 35. Instead of running the ball on third down and still being in a position to kick a long field goal, Kyle Shanahan again dialed up a passing play, and although it was complete, Jake Matthews was flagged for holding pushing the Falcons out of field goal range.
After the holding call, the Falcons faced a 3rd and 33. There should only be two options in the playbook for this kind of situation. One of them should have been a draw play to try and pick up a sneaky five plus yards to get back into long field goal range or at the worst run time off the clock. The other should have been a dump pass or even a screen to also attempt a mid-range gain to get back into field goal range. If a passing play was dialed, it should have been a high percentage pass not a 15 yard out pattern.
All these mistakes don’t even include that the Falcons were repeatedly snapping the ball with double-digit time left on the play clock. The three possessions the Falcons had after taking the 28-3 lead only took a total of five minutes and 24 seconds off of the game clock. That averages out to 27 seconds per play, which included the actual time to run the play, a completely unacceptable number when you are trying to run out the clock to secure a Super Bowl victory.
Kyle Shanahan better hope the 49ers brass wasn’t watching the game….