Shanahan laments this play-calling mistake in Super Bowl loss to Patriots


The Atlanta Falcons will forever be reminded of the 28-3 lead they surrendered in their Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots during the 2016 NFL season.

It's arguably the biggest single-game collapse in playoff history (in any sport).

A lot of the blame for the Falcons losing has fallen on the shoulders of then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who currently is the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Shanahan was calling the plays, and one of the decisions he regrets came on Atlanta's second-to-last drive of the game. The Falcons were in Patriots territory leading 28-20 with 4:38 left in the fourth quarter. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had just made an all-time catch to put his team in field goal range. 

After running the ball on first-and-10 and getting stuffed, Shanahan wanted to go right back to Jones.

On the latest episode of the "Flying Coach" podcast with Peter Schrager, Shanahan gives some really interesting insight into what he was thinking on that pivotal drive and what he could have done differently.

"So we threw it to Julio, he caught that. I ran it the next play, got it to second-and-10, and I was like, 'I'm going right to Julio,'" Shanahan said. "And I called a play to totally go to Julio.

"Right when we snapped it, the coverage took it away, so it was the wrong call. And I wish we didn't take a sack, but no one was open, and we ended up taking a sack. And right then I was like, 'Oh my god, why did I just try to end it?'


"And that got in me, it was like I knew because it was a buildup of an hour watching Tom (Brady). I'm like, 'Man, I just tried to end it.' I think I was thinking right, because who the hell is not going to Julio Jones right now. And oh my God, now we're not and I've got to throw the ball to get back to field goal range. And so the next play, I threw the ball. It was a 5-yard out to Mohamed Sanu, caught it, turned up the field for a 12-yard gain. Back in field goal range, but they called a holding on our left tackle Jake Matthews on Chris Long. ..."

The Falcons ended up punting on that drive, which gave the Patriots the ball again at their own 9-yard line with 3:30 left in regulation. As we all know, Brady went down the field and led the Patriots to the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion. New England won the coin toss to begin overtime and scored a touchdown on its first drive to win the Lombardi Trophy.

Shanahan later added: "But it comes down to one play. That's what I've always said, like yeah, I wish I called a different call on that one play. I don't want to go to the final everything -- you're down, you get into the two-minute (drill), you throw the ball six plays straight, but like, that one right there, and I think it would have been different."

That Super Bowl loss is probably going to haunt Shanahan and the rest of the Falcons players and coaches for the rest of their lives. It's painful to lose a Super Bowl in any fashion, but it's even harder when victory seemed so certain only to get ripped away.