Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Matt Ryan: Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl calls were too slow


Full credit to Pete Prisco. The CBS Sports writer got Matt Ryan to do something nobody -- at least nobody to my knowledge, and I keep track of this stuff -- has done. He got Ryan to say something less than gracious.

In a conversation with Prisco this week, Ryan essentially blamed the Super Bowl collapse on Kyle Shanahan, who's now coaching the 49ers and who, it must be said, turned Matt Ryan from a good quarterback into the NFL's MVP.

I'm not here to argue that Shanahan didn't botch the final eight minutes of regulation in NRG Stadium. He demonstrably did. Still, hearing the speak-no-evil Matty Ice say it out loud and for the record is rather jarring.

Ryan to Prisco: "We made the play to win the Super Bowl to Julio (Jones)."

Apparently Shanahan called that one, too, but never mind. What happened next lost the Super Bowl. The Falcons ran the ball and lost a yard. Ryan got sacked on second-and-11 from the New England 23 when a field goal would have clinched the Lombardi Trophy. Jake Matthews was called for holding. Ryan threw incomplete. The Falcons didn't even try a field goal. They punted.

Ryan to Prisco on the second-down sack: "Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before (the microphone in his helmet) 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."

Then: "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 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."

Again, not to defend this particular play call -- there's no defending the indefensible -- but Ryan could have called timeout if he objected strongly. No, you don't like to stop the clock if you're the team holding a late lead, but you'd rather do that than get sacked. Speaking of which ...

On the strip/sack that ended the Falcons' previous possession and changed the game, Ryan had no chance. Devonta Freeman blocked air, as opposed to the blitzing Dont'a Hightower. On this sack, Ryan might have gotten rid of the ball and saved the yards. The pressure came late and up the middle from Trey Flowers, who had flung the ailing Alex Mack backward.

And maybe I'm making too much of this, but that final bit -- "There's also winning time" -- is pretty much what these fingers typed in the immediate aftermath and could be read as rebuke of Dan Quinn, whose postgame comments about "staying aggressive" bordered on gibberish.

Ryan told Prisco he has put the Super Bowl in the past. To a man, the Falcons keep saying that. But here they are, about to go to camp, and Peyton Manning is making jokes about them and they're still trying to explain themselves.


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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.