We’ll be debating exactly how the Falcons lost the Super Bowl for a very long time. Losses like that don’t just fade away, no matter how much you may wish they will, and as fans it’s our sworn responsibility and agonizing right to have that debate.
Dan Quinn and the Falcons have talked all offseason about moving ahead, because one of the worst things you can do as a football team is dwell on the past and let it consume you. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s over it, and that doesn’t mean the Falcons didn’t spend time trying to figure out what went wrong.
This illuminating interview from CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco with Matt Ryan tells a tale of some great, triumphant moments, and how a seemingly insurmountable lead vanished. For those of you who ultimately hold Kyle Shanahan responsible for the loss, this won’t do anything to discourage you.
My sit-down with Falcons QB Matt Ryan. “We made the play to win the Super Bowl to Julio.” https://t.co/sPI8GJ11xn— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) July 19, 2017
Ryan calls the toe-tapping Julio Jones catch the Super Bowl winning play the Falcons needed to make after the Patriots closed the gap off of good offensive play, a little luck, and the now infamous Devonta Freeman missed block that led to a sack and fumble. But as Prisco notes, the Falcons still could have potentially run the ball a few times and kicked the field goal, or milked the clock to hold on to the lead and ultimately win the Super Bowl.
It’s obvious Prisco is one of the analysts who holds Shanahan accountable for what happened next. It might surprise you to hear Ryan talk as though he holds Shanahan accountable, too.
Shanahan got greedy, probably caught up in his battle with Bill Belichick, the greatest coach of all time. Quinn didn't veto the calls -- something he said he will learn from -- and Ryan had no chance to change the plays.
"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in," Ryan said. "As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.
"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."
If you read that and come to the conclusion that Ryan blames Shanahan for what happened, I wouldn’t blame you, because I do too. There were many reasons the Falcons ultimately lost the game, and Shanahan’s offensive acumen was a big part of the reason they got there. But it’s pretty obvious that Shanahan could have made a different decision and still potentially preserved the win, and I don’t think anyone with the team is unaware of that. Future games against the 49ers should be...pretty interesting.
It’s a pretty great article, so please go read it now. Then continue the eternal debate in the comments, if you wish.