Hey, Kyle Shanahan, you just lost the Super Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons. What are you going to do next?
Are you going to Disney World?
No, you’re not. No Disney World for you. You’re going to the 49ers, or so we believe, where you’ll lose and lose and lose some more while you think about how you choked away the biggest game of your life.
While you think about how your offense scored only 21 points against the Patriots.
While you think about how you got outcoached by New England’s offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, who turned down the 49ers’ head-coaching job just a few weeks ago.
While you think about how maybe you should have turned down the 49ers’ job as well and focused on winning the Super Bowl like McDaniels did.
Oh, the things you will think.
You’re probably thinking about those things right now. Niners fans sure are. They’re having nightmares about you. Jed York might be having nightmares, too. You made quite an impression, Kyle.
You probably didn’t see any of this coming. Everything was going so well for you. Your quarterback won the MVP, your offense led the league in scoring and your system seemed flawless. Then in the span of just a few hours, Bill Belichick exposed every one of your system’s weaknesses — both in the running game and the passing game.
Let’s start with your running game. It’s the same one Mike Shanahan, your father, made popular in the ’80s and ’90s. The outside-zone running game. It’s not physical. It’s not pounding the rock up the middle. It’s stretching the defense to create holes outside the tackles. Five offensive lineman running toward the sideline, moving in unison like the Rockettes, while they pat and push defenders who come in their path.
This is a finesse running game. It worked for you during the regular season, the playoffs and the first half of the Super Bowl. But then on the first play of the third quarter, your running back, Devonta Freeman, lost 3 yards on an outside-zone run to the left. And your offense gained just 21 yards on eight carries the rest of the game. Leading big in the second half, you couldn’t run the ball when you needed to. That’s exactly when teams pound the rock and use up clock.
What happened to your running game, Kyle?
I’ll tell you what happened. The Patriots adjusted to it. They “set the edge,” and here’s what I mean. They knew you wanted to run around the ends, so every time Matt Ryan handed off the ball to a back, one of the Patriots’ linebackers blasted your lead blocker — a jogging offensive tackle — 5 yards into the backfield.
Now, your running back couldn’t run around the end — his lead blocker was standing in the way. So, the back had to cut toward the middle where the rest of the Patriots’ defense was waiting for him. And then they gang-tackled him.
Your system allowed the Patriots to knock your guys around and wear them down. A traditional running game lets the offense wear down the defense. A traditional running game gives out hits, doesn’t take them.
You need to think about that, Kyle.