Super Bowl 54: Kyle Shanahan gets his chance at redemption
Joe Gibbs calling a screen pass at the end of the first half in Super Bowl 18.
Pete Carroll allowing Russell Wilson to throw when Seattle, trailing by four points in Super Bowl 49, was the New England 1-yard line with 26 seconds left and a timeout in their pocket.
Bill Belichick disdaining a 48-yard field goal to go for it on 4th-and-9 against the Giants in Super Bowl 42.
Coaching blunders all. But the biggest Super Bowl coaching blooper came from the guy who is all the rage in 2019 NFL: Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan has San Francisco in Super Bowl 54, against the Chiefs, a week from Sunday, and the 49ers look quite imposing. Their dominance of Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game was such that 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw just eight passes.
Where was such restraint in Super Bowl 51, Falcon fans might be asking?
Shanahan was the 2016 Falcons’ offensive coordinator, and that Atlanta team blew into Houston and took a 28-3 third-quarter lead on the Patriots. The Belichick/Tom Brady dynasty appeared quite humbled and possibly over – New England had won just one Super Bowl in 12 years, and that courtesy of Malcolm Butler’s interception two years earlier of the ill-fated Wilson pass.
But the Falcons’ 28-3 lead turned into a 28-28 tie, and here’s how. Atlanta lengthened the game. Between 28-3 and 28-28, the Falcons had three possessions.
Shanahan called nine passes and five runs. The Falcons had three offensive possessions and used up 2:15, 1:20 and 2:26.
Shanahan never grasped the time/score dichotomy. Atlanta reached the New England 22-yard line with 4:40 left in the game, leading 28-20. Then came a series of plays that will live in Atlanta infamy:
* Tailback Devonta Foreman lost a yard on first down.
* New England defensive end Trey Flowers sacked quarterback Matt Ryan for a 12-yard loss to the Patriot 35-yard line. New England used its first timeout.
* Ryan completed a short pass to Mohamed Sanu for a nine-yard gain, but the Falcons’ Jake Matthews was called for holding. Belichick had the option of 4th-and-14 from the Patriot 26 or 3rd-and-33 from the Patriot 45. He took the penalty.
* Ryan threw incomplete on a short pass intended for Taylor Gabriel. The Falcons punted.
From first down at the Patriot 22, in easy field-goal range for Matt Bryant, who that season was 10-of-11 on kicks inside 50 yards, the Falcons had bumbled themselves into a punt and had used up just 70 seconds in the process.
Brady drove New England 91 yards to a touchdown and tying 2-point conversion, and the Patriots won in overtime.
Shanahan outfoxed himself. A two-possession game in the waning moments of a Super Bowl was in Shanahan’s grasp, and he treated such opportunity not like a precious jewel, but like a piece of bubble gum. And Shanahan blew it.
Shanahan is an excellent coach. He’s proving that with the 49ers. But three years ago, given carte blanche to run the Falcon offense by head coach Dan Quinn, Shanahan whiffed on the biggest stage. His chance at redemption comes against the Chiefs. Atlanta and the Falcons still await their chance at redemption.