Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Shanahan goes back to Super Bowl loss to prepare for Lions

Kyle Shanahan goes back to Super Bowl loss to prepare for Lions

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers have very little material from which to prepare for Sunday’s home opener against the Detroit Lions.

So coach Kyle Shanahan was forced to go back and relive the disappointment of Super Bowl 51, though he tried to remove all emotions and take a clinical approach to gain information that could be useful this weekend.

There was not much to be gleaned from the Detroit Lions’ season opener on Monday, a game that got out of hand midway through the third quarter. So Shanahan has spent a great deal of time looking back at the history of Detroit coach Matt Patricia, who previously served as the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator.

That quest for more intelligence sent Shanahan back to Super Bowl 51, when his offense with the Atlanta Falcons went up against Patricia’s Patriots defense.

“You go back to everything,” Shanahan said on "49ers Game Plan," which airs on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3) on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Lions and New York Jets were tied 17-17 in the third quarter before the Jets scored touchdowns on a pass play, an interception return and a punt return in less than three minutes to blow the game open and change the approaches of both teams for the remainder of the way.

“You cant just watch 2 ½ quarters of football for the whole week," Shanahan said. "This is stuff I do over the summer, also. Over the summer, we’re not watching Detroit. We’re watching all New England. We’re watching the 2017 year, the 2016 year, and I go back to the last time I played against them, which was in the Super Bowl.”

Shanahan’s offense was rolling in the Super Bowl, as the Falcons led 28-3 in the middle of the third quarter. In Atlanta’s first six possessions, the offense rolled up 14 first downs. But Atlanta did not score in their final four series, and managed just three first downs. Shanahan was roundly criticized for leaning too heavily on the passing game in his fourth-quarter play-calling.

The Patriots' defense stiffened, allowing Tom Brady to engineer a comeback for the ages. The Patriots won, 34-28, in overtime. Less than a month later, Shanahan spent considerable time at the NFL scouting combine with Belichick for advice on becoming a first-time head coach and to learn from what happened to him at the Super Bowl.

“Everyone is a product of their environment,” Shanahan said. “It’s a very good scheme. He knows it very well. Matt’s a very good coach. Matt is very bright, and he’s learned from the best.”

Shanahan said he assumes Patricia will use a similar approach with the Lions from his time with Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots use a variety of defensive fronts and coverages. They are rarely predictable.

“I really look at this game, schematically, it’s more about us, putting ourselves in good positions and doing what we do well,” Shanahan said. “We’ll see their plan as we go. We’ll see it early in the game. We’ll see it all the way through the first half. We’ll see their adjustments at halftime, and we have to be ready to adjust accordingly.”

This Sunday, be sure to watch 49ers Pregame Live at 12 p.m. and 49ers Postgame Live immediately after the game on NBC Sports Bay Area and live streaming on the NBC Sports app. Greg Papa, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Matt Maiocco and Laura Britt will have everything you need to know from the 49ers’ season opener.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"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 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."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.

Former Falcons WR White 'literally would’ve fought' Shanahan after Super Bowl

Former Falcons WR White 'literally would’ve fought' Shanahan after Super Bowl

Former Falcons wide receiver Roddy White was not happy with new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan for his play calling late in Atlanta's 34-28 overtime Super Bowl LI loss to the Patriots. 

“I’m glad I wasn’t a part of that team because I probably literally would’ve fought him,” White said on the "We Never Played the Game" podcast, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

White, who was a four-time Pro Bowler in Atlanta, lost $40,000 betting on his former team while watching the game in Las Vegas. 

“You destroyed a dream for a city,” White said on Shanahan. “It’s bigger than me. The city of Atlanta needed that championship and you had it. Arthur Blank needed that championship and he deserved to win that game, with everything he’s been through. It was finally our time to win and it just hurt me that we didn’t get it done.”

What particularly set White off was Shanahan's decision to not play it safe late in the game. Atlanta was once up by 25 points, 28-3, in the third quarter, but then the Patriots came marching back. Instead of going to the ground, Shanahan kept airing it out and a late sack plus an offsides put the Falcons out of field-goal range that would have put them up by 11 points with 3:38 left in the game.

“You have a kicker in a dome and he don’t miss," said White. "As a coaching staff, you’re on the headset. Nobody said, ‘We're going to run the ball three times.’”

White ended his career after the 2015 season, his only year with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator. He posted his lowest number of receptions and yards since his second year in the NFL.