In an interview with CBSSports.com senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco, Matt Ryan discussed Atlanta’s Super Bowl LI meltdown – the Falcons coughed up a 28-3 lead to New England and lost 34-28 in overtime – and expressed frustration with the manner in which the collapse occurred.
Many NFL analysts believe that a pivotal sequence cost Atlanta the game; specifically, former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s decision to not run the ball with the Falcons up 28-20 in the fourth quarter and in field-gal range. Instead of running the ball three straight times, Shanahan called run, pass (which resulted in a sack for a loss of 12 yards), pass (which resulted in a holding penalty), and pass (which resulted in an incompletion). The Falcons went from the New England 22 to the New England 45, couldn’t kick a field goal, and lost.
Why didn’t Ryan change Shanahan’s calls at the line of scrimmage, you ask? Apparently he couldn’t.
“Kyle’s play calls – he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Prisco. “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.”
Brandon Tierney, for one, was not a fan of Ryan’s willingness to put the onus on Shanahan. Prisco, though, didn’t see it that way.
“It wasn’t like he was making excuses; he was just stating the facts,” Prisco said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Look, he said that it’s hard to change the plays the way Kyle called plays. That was a problem all year long. It was a tough situation. He wasn’t passing the buck.”
But it seemed like he was – at least to some people. Either way, it’s fair to say that Shanahan, not Ryan, deserved the lion’s share of the blame for Atlanta’s collapse.
“Kyle’s to blame for that thing,” Prisco said. “If you want to put it on anybody, it’s on Kyle. He got arrogant, he tried to out-think himself. If you go run the ball – I told Dan Quinn, I told Thomas Dimitroff, if you take three knees and you kick a field goal, you’re winning the Super Bowl.”
But they didn’t. The Falcons lost, Shanahan is now the head coach of the 49ers, and Steve Sarkisian is the new OC in Atlanta.
Ryan might be okay with that.
“I’ll be honest with you: That relationship wasn’t exactly great,” Prisco said, referring to Ryan and Shanahan. “(Ryan) never said that, but other people in the organization have told me that relationship wasn’t (great). . . . The bottom line is, everybody thinks that they’re going to miss Kyle Shanahan – and Kyle’s a brilliant offensive mind, don’t get me wrong. Steve Sarkisian will do a hell of a job for the Falcons. You watch.”