It’s not uncommon for players and even coaches who suffered a tough loss on the biggest stage to admit that they can’t bring themselves to re-watch the defeat and relive the worst moments of their sporting life.
Matt Ryan apparently is not one of those people.
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player spoke to reporters on Monday at his charity golf tournament, his first round of interviews since his team’s loss in Super Bowl LI.
Saying he felt “numb” after the Falcons blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead, the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history, Ryan didn’t wait long before he grabbed a video player – and put the game on repeat.
“I watched it,” Ryan said. “I watched it a day after. I watched it two days after and I watched it three days after. For me, it was one of those things where you kind of want to be able to deal with it appropriately.
“Maybe, that’s different for everybody. Some people bury it away. Some people (do) whatever. … For me it was ‘all right, let’s watch. Does it feel the same way it felt as we were going through it?’”
When it comes to feelings, Ryan felt the Falcons had wrapped up the first championship in franchise history when Julio Jones made a sensational 27-yard catch with 4:40 to play in the fourth, a play that gave Atlanta first down at the New England 22, within striking distance of adding to its 28-20 lead.
“When I let it go, I was just trying to put it high in a safe spot for him to make a play. I did that. I was fired up at that point. I thought that was going to be a play that was going to change the outcome of that game,” Ryan said. “Obviously, the next couple of plays unfolded, and we didn’t end up converting (it into) points.
“At the time, I thought it was a huge play.”
But a one-yard loss by running back Devonta Freeman and a 12-yard sack not only put Atlanta in a third-and-23 situation, it knocked the team out of field-goal range. Add in a holding penalty and the Falcons were punting the ball back to New England.
As happens when teams lose in the playoffs, the Falcons’ coaching staff has been heavily scrutinized for how it handled the final minutes of the game, particularly head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (now head coach in San Francisco) for not running the ball late, which likely would have locked things up.
Ryan, however, is not among those criticizing the pair.
“You have to believe in what you are doing,” he said. “That’s kind of the way we were all year. That’s not going to change. I love that approach. I love that they have confidence in me and that they have confidence in the guys that we have, and we are going to let it rip. Obviously, it didn’t work out.”
Though Ryan is a veteran, he said he wasn’t able to change plays, either.
“It just doesn’t operate like that in football. You have a personnel grouping that’s out on the field that could change or limit your number of plays,” he said. “So, if you want to change out of something and into something, you might not have the right guys out there …
“Talk to 99 percent of the guys and they will tell you that what comes in is what we are going to run,” Ryan said. “As a player, it’s your job to make the plays work. I’ve always believed that whatever the play call is, it’s your responsibility to go out there and make it work. We didn’t get it done on those couple of plays.”
As close as they were, Ryan expressed confidence that the Falcons are hungry and well-positioned to get back to the Super Bowl.
“We have a young team, and we were ready to play,” he said. “We played well. We were right in the mix. … We fell a little bit short, but we should have every bit of confidence that we are going to be right back there next year getting a different outcome because we’re going to be more experienced.”
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