The New England Patriots deserve a lot of credit for staging the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history Sunday night, turning a 28-3 deficit into a 34-28 win. But the Atlanta Falcons deserve a lot of blame.
Atlanta called just five running plays after securing a 28-3 lead midway through the third quarter. How does a team run the ball just five times with a 25-point lead?
“That’s some of the same questions that I asked,” Atlanta’s 92.9 The Game host Hugh Douglas said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “We all watch the game differently and we all see different things, but that was the one thing, to me, that stuck out. The Patriots ran 93 plays in this game. That defense was on the field a long time. The offense comes out in the second half and only scores one touchdown. What happened to the running game?”
Devonta Freeman gashed the Patriots all night, rushing 11 times for 75 yards (6.8 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He also had two catches for 46 yards, meaning Freeman had 121 total yards on just 13 touches (9.3 yards per touch).
The Falcons said the Patriots made adjustments and took away perimeter running plays. Douglas, who played in the NFL from 1995 to 2004, didn’t buy it.
“Look, you and I both know you have to run the ball,” Douglas said. “You have to keep running the ball. Even when you can’t run the ball, you have to run the ball. When they got away from that, it allowed that Patriots defense to eat. They ate, they came up with big plays, they came up with big stops, and that changed the whole momentum of the game.”
One must wonder if offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan should have taken his foot off the gas a bit. When you’re up 16 points in the fourth quarter, you don’t need to score; you need to bleed the clock and manage the game.
“I look at it like this,” Douglas said. “You got a high-powered offense that dropped 25 points on the Patriots in the first half, and then you look at the second half – it’s a different ball game. They looked conservative. Now, you have a lot of people out there that tell you they weren’t playing conservative, but it looked conservative to me. You’re not doing some of the things that you’ve done in the first half that you had success with. You’re not running the ball with Devonta Freeman and letting him gash that defense. You’re not running sideline to sideline and making plays. You’re not throwing the ball to Julio Jones as much as you used to throw it to him. But again, you have to go back to your bread and butter. I think that you have to run Devonta Freeman, especially when that defense is pressing you the way that you are, you have to try to get something going in the run game.”
It’ll be interesting to see who replaces Shanahan in Atlanta, but Chip Kelly is reportedly an option. Douglas would not be a fan of that.
“I trust what Coach Quinn has built here,” he said. “If they’re thinking about bringing in Chip Kelly, you have to trust the process, even though we’ve already seen Chip Kelly in the NFL. We haven’t seen him as an offensive coordinator, but we have a pretty good idea of what he’s trying to do. I don’t know if that’s the answer, (but) you’re talking about growing pains once again. You’re talking about a new offensive philosophy. You’re talking about a new terminology. When you bring in an offense and you change the terminology, it. takes awhile for everybody to get on the same page.”
In any event, the Super Bowl title wait for Arthur Blank continues.
“He’s heartbroken,” Douglas said of the 74-year-old Falcons owner. “Everybody in the city of Atlanta is heartbroken. But this team is going to come back. I think they have a great shot of getting back to the big game.”