Around every historic win or epic loss, narrative coalesce. That narrative appears in the wake of a game, and over time and with enough steam, it becomes the story of that game.
For the Patriots, the story of this game will be their historic rally led by the ultimate quarterback, Tom Brady. That story is true, in a sense, but it ignores the phenomenal Patriots defense in the second half, and the fact that James White did a huge amount of work to get them to the win. For the Falcons, the narrative hasn’t set just yet, but you can already see where the fingers are pointing.
Run three times. Kick a field goal. Falcons win. That simple. As great as Brady was, the victory doesn’t happen without bad coaching— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) February 6, 2017
Kyle Shanahan drew some criticism during the game and a lot more in its immediate aftermath for abandoning the run in the second half, and for some of the specific passing plays the team tried to execute with a massive lead that they ultimately squandered in horrific fashion.
Wild stat. Falcons called only 5 running plays after securing a 28-3 lead. @NFLonFOX— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) February 6, 2017
In my eyes, this is inexcusable. The knock on Kyle Shanahan has always been inflexibility and arrogance, but those knocks faded to the background as Shanahan did a legitimately wonderful job with the #1 offense in football this past season. A couple of times this season, Shanny had this offense pass when they probably should have run, something we saw a lot of in 2015. I just didn’t think that in the biggest game of the season—hell, in this franchise’s history—the team would get away from an effective ground game. Shanahan and this offense had so much success in 2016 with a balanced attack, which makes it even more baffling.
They were trying to do what they always do, though, and put up a gazillion points. They saw the big plays from Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel, and Freeman and Coleman getting stuffed a couple of times, and stuck with the aerial assault that had produced so much wins this season. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a mistake, one of many Atlanta ultimately made in this one.
This was a team loss. The defense did fall apart down the stretch, which is hard to blame them for given how long they were on the field. Dan Quinn did make some questionable decisions. Devonta Freeman did miss a block and Matt Ryan did fumble the football. The pass protection struggled at times. And so forth. Without all of those things working in concert, the Falcons probably win this game.
For all that, though, it is obvious that the narrative for the Falcons years from now will be that Kyle Shanahan blew it with his game plan, and per some reports, Kyle Shanahan himself would tell you the same.
Those who spoke with Kyle Shanahan last night at Falcons team hotel tell me he said "I blew it" #SB51 pic.twitter.com/b5QFzC0Rwn— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) February 6, 2017
Shanahan’s on his way to San Francisco now, too, which makes it much easier for fans to use him as a punching bag. We’ll be lucky if the next offensive coordinator can do the kind of job Shanny did with this offense this year, to be clear, but Shanahan’s farewell effort will leave a sour note over one of the finest seasons this team could ever have expected.