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These quotes from Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, complaining about how not getting the ball more in the second half cost him an Super Bowl LI MVP, will get some attention.
Read the quotes, then we’ll remind you how Freeman made perhaps the biggest single error for the Falcons as they blew the game to the New England Patriots.
“I hate to go there but I was supposed to be the MVP this year of the Super Bowl, but it’s all good, we got another shot,” Freeman told SiriusXM NFL Radio, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I don’t want to make this no competition thing with me and my quarterback,” Freeman said. “I’m just talking about from based off that game. Let’s (say) it like this: if I would have kept getting the ball, if I would have stayed in the game, I don’t know why I got out of the game actually.
“But if I would have stayed in the game, I would have got MVP. I’m looking at my stats and I see my numbers didn’t lie. Look at my numbers.”
Freeman’s numbers were good. He had 75 yards on just 11 carries. He should have gotten the ball more. The Falcons should have run more in the second half.
We’re more advanced as a football community than we were years ago. There are some great analysts who can break down the coaches’ film and explain the Xs and Os of the game. We’re fortunate to do a lot of work with Greg Cosell of NFL Films, who many consider the best in that field.
If you want to go back and read Cosell’s breakdown of Super Bowl LI, it’s one of the best film study pieces I’ve read. This is what is relevant to Freeman’s MVP quotes: On the biggest play of the Super Bowl, when Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower strip-sacked Matt Ryan, Freeman completely missed the block.
Falcons receiver Aldrick Robinson was wide open. He ran right by Malcolm Butler. Ryan was going to him.
It might have been a touchdown, except for the fact that Freeman didn’t block Hightower.
Here’s what Cosell wrote at the time: “Ryan didn’t have a chance to throw it because running back Devonta Freeman never recognized Hightower as a blitzer. Hightower aligned outside of flexed “X iso” tight end Austin Hooper, and Freeman focused inside. Freeman was surprised Hightower rushed and was not in position to pick him up on what should have been an easy blitz pickup. With one more beat, Ryan would have been throwing deep to a wide-open Robinson.”
Check it out for yourself, it’s not like there’s much gray area here:
Yep, No. 24 above, watching Hightower about to crush his quarterback and make the single biggest play of Super Bowl LI, is complaining that Atlanta’s play-calling cost him the MVP award.
A lot of things had to go wrong for the Falcons to blow Super Bowl LI. No single person or play is to blame. But imagine if you’re Kyle Shanahan, who has been criticized for his second-half play-calling all offseason and probably until the end of time. Imagine Shanahan, knowing he called a great play that was going for a big gain and likely to seal the game, only to have it blown up because Freeman didn’t get a blitz pickup … and then hearing Freeman say he had an MVP award taken from him because he didn’t get the ball enough. Wow.
So when you hear Freeman talk about “if I would have stayed in the game, I would have got MVP,” remember that the film doesn’t lie.
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