Add former Falcons wide receiver Roddy White to the vast number of people who think Atlanta should have just run the dang ball in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI.
White didn’t pull any punches on the We Never Played the Game podcast hosted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Jeff Schultz and Zach Klein of Atlanta’s WSB-TV. He said he would have “literally” fought former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan over the play calling decisions that led to the loss.
The Falcons led 28-20 in the fourth quarter, and after catches by Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones, Atlanta found itself on the New England 22-yard line. After a run play for a loss of a yard on first down, Shanahan called a pass play. Ryan was sacked on a five-step drop, resulting in a loss of 12 yards and pushing the Falcons out of comfortable field goal range for Matt Bryant.
White said he told Jones that, had he been on the field for that second down, he would have jumped offsides on purpose to keep the play from happening.
“At that point, it’s second-and-16, you know they’re going to run the ball,” White said. “Or they’ll throw quick game (quick pass off a three-step drop). It wouldn’t be anything you can take a sack on.”
White did single out the former offensive coordinator for the play calls, but he also acknowledged that Shanahan shouldn’t bear the blame alone.
“As a coaching staff, you’re on the headset,” White said. “Nobody said, ‘Were going to run the ball three times.’”
There’s a history of conflict between White and Shanahan. White was vocal last season about his dissatisfaction with his role in the Falcons’ offense. His perspective hasn’t changed.
“I’m asking Kyle, ‘What do you think I can do?’ He said, ‘Well, you can run slants, you can run under, you can run slow-go’s,’” White said. “I was like, ‘Why are you not calling those plays for me?’ He just didn’t want me in the offense. If you don’t want me, just tell me. I can handle that.”
The Falcons cut White following the 2015 season, but he hasn’t stopped following or supporting his former teammates. White is a season ticket holder and attended nearly every Falcons game last season.
The pain of watching the Falcons lose the Super Bowl in catastrophic fashion lingers for White.
“You destroyed a dream for a city,” White said. “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.”
White’s perspective will surely resonate with Falcons fans still reeling from the loss.